(2020-08-04) Cagan Product Vision Vs Mission

Martin Cagan: Product Vision vs. Mission. The product vision is one of the most important and highest-leverage tools for tech-powered product companies.

There are two very common confusions:

Confusing Vision with Mission

  • They are confusing a slogan about their purpose, with a product vision.
  • The problem is that this is not a product vision, and most importantly, it doesn’t address the needs of a product vision.

Having Each Product Team Create Their Own Vision

  • This of course completely misses one of the key purposes of the product vision, which is to provide the common “north star” so that every product team, no matter what area they are working on, understands how their work contributes to the larger whole.

The issue is not the terminology. The issue is that empowered product teams have some very real needs that have to be addressed, if you want to have true empowerment, and a team of missionaries versus a team of mercenaries. And a mission statement simply doesn’t address these needs.

The product vision should describe the desired state 3-5 years out for software companies, and 5-10 years out for device companies.

An inspiring and compelling product vision serves so many critical purposes that it is hard to think of a more important or higher-leverage product artifact:

  • A good product vision keeps us focused on the customer.
  • A good product vision serves as the North Star for the product organization so that we have a common understanding of what we are hoping to accomplish together.... (and more)

I don’t think I can name a higher-leverage tool for a product organization. Admittedly, a good product vision is a bit of an art form, as fundamentally it is a persuasion tool.

When done well, the product vision is compelling, inspiring, and empowering.

Product Vision FAQ: In the previous article discussing product vision versus mission, I received quite a few follow-up questions.

The product vision should describe the desired end state 2-5 years out for software companies, and 5-10 years out for device companies.

We want the product vision to apply to as much of our organization as possible, until the point where this becomes meaningless. For example, a single product vision that would span AWS, Kindle, Alexa, and Amazon.com would not be helpful or meaningful. But a product vision does make sense for each of those units.

The more common mistake is to break up a product into smaller visions, such as having one product vision for the buyer side of a marketplace, and another for the seller side. But this misses the important dynamics between the sides of the marketplace. It’s much more helpful to have a product vision for the marketplace as a whole.

you don’t have the details, and that you are not even sure you’ll be able to figure how out to solve the problems that you’ll need to solve, but you need to inspire the audience that it’s worth solving these problems, and that you have the skills and enabling technologies to have a real shot at delivering on the vision.

a strong product vision is the result of a creative process, much like crafting a story (storytelling)

when I work with a company on their vision, I have evolved a form of facilitated discussion designed to get what we need in order to create a product vision. This discussion usually takes 1-2 days, ideally done as a form of off-site.

the purpose of this session is not to actually create the visiontype. Rather, it is to give the head of product and the product designer the necessary context and clarity so that they can spend the next days creating an early version of the visiontype.

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