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Facilitating a Mission / Vision Workshop

In other news, I’ve recently switched roles to being a Product Owner. As this is a new team, I tasked myself with creating a mission and vision for the team that we can buy in to and that we can use to set expectations with our stakeholders. This isn’t the first time I’ve conducted such a workshop (last time as an Agile Coach, this time as a PO), so I thought I would share with you how I do it. I’m keen to hear any questions or feedback you might have 🙂

Introduction (5min)

Ask the question – “why is it important for us to have a mission and a vision?”. Hopefully you should get some answers like:

  • To manage expectations with stakeholders
  • Have a sense of purpose, be attached to how why we exist / deliver value
  • A tool to guide and challenge what we do

To help the team understand this concept, I explained it through a diagram that I drew on a whiteboard:

skitch (3)

Vision (15 – 20 mins)

First start by providing some context around why the team exists. It can be useful to provide the vision of your department/company also, to help the team think about why we’re here together.

Now challenge the team to think ahead in time, whether it be 6 – 12 months or 4 years from now, its up to you. After this length of time, what does our ideal state look like? Ask the team to write down some attributes or statements that describe this ideal world. (hint: Try to focus on the customer!)

  • Cluster these statements and give them a name
  • Facilitate turning them into a vision statement, try writing a few and picking out the best one (or the best elements of them and consolidating)

Our team owns the release infrastructure for our desktop client. This is what it looked like for us:

2015-11-24_jpg

This was then distilled to:

“Developing with quality for desktop is effortless and provides fast feedback. Releases are frequent and uneventful.”

Mission (30 mins)

Now that we’ve agreed on where we want to go, we now need to formulate a statement of how we’re going to get there. Start by brainstorming (with post-its) the following questions:

  • Who are we building software for?
  • What do we do/build?
  • Why (maybe even apply 5 whys)
  • How

Now that we have some context, remind the team about what a mission statement is and ask them to formulate a mission statement in isolation. A good structure to use is:

“We’re doing X(what), for Y(who), because Z(why)”

Remind the team that setting the mission statement is about focus. There will always be secondary stakeholders, distractions and other things we do that don’t quite fit. The trick is to be able to remind ourselves the primary thing we are doing, in order to set priority of our work and manage expectations of stakeholders. This is about focus.

After viewing different statements, we picked the aspects we liked and arrived on:

Vision___Mission_Workshop_-_Google_Docs

Agree on both the mission and vision. Is this an accurate depiction of where we want to be and how we want to get there? It doesn’t have to be perfect, we can change it later.

How do you feel about running such a workshop with your team? Have you tried something different? Tell us in the comments! 🙂

(In case anyone is wondering, the featured image is the view from our offsite where we ran this workshop – Stockholm is a beautiful city!)

  • We have facilitated a product vision workshop with Roman Pichler’s Product Vision Board* template. It helped us to think clearly about where we wanted to go and why. I like Roman’s divisions of template such as target customers, business goals etc.

    I think, your way has some advantages if I compare with ours.
    – Separating mission and vision clearly with “who, when, where, what, how” questions make clearer for everyone about what those concepts mean.
    – In our workshop, we have talked about target customers, needs and someone in the team wrote on template for everyone else. I think it’s always better to let everyone write down what they think. You never know what comes out from people.

    I will try to combine Roman’s template with your way, letting people write down and making clear what mission and vision mean for everyone. Thank you.

    * (http://www.romanpichler.com/tools/vision-board/)

  • Thanks for the feedback! Would love to hear how it goes for you in combining the two approaches. Roman Pichler’s books get a lot of love around the Spotify office from our POs, particularly those in Infrastructure teams that are new to being a PO. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Matt

    Good article Brendan. I particularly like the “why” of your mission statement – may even borrow it 😉

    One thing I’ve done is to apply Design Thinking and conduct a quick Empathy exercise with the team and ask what are the “Fears, Frustrations and Desires” of our customers/partners. This helps provide a reference to test assumptions and recommendations in the Vision & Mission development.