A clear project vision is key for any project success. It gives direction, sets goals and can even solve problems before they arise. While most companies have a good understanding of who they are and where they are going, when the time comes to write it all down issues appear. To make sure this does not happen to you, here is what you need to know about project vision statements.
Project Vision – What is it?
Before setting pen to paper and trying to figure out your vision, you should first know what is it that you are trying to write. There are two different definitions at play here – project vision and project vision statement. Project vision is the overall grand idea of where the team or project is going. The statement on the other hand is sort of a tool that allows to communicate this vision in a clear and concise manner.
To put it simply, project vision statement is a written down version of the project vision. Its aim is to guide, motivate and inspire the people working on the project. Comprised out of only few sentences, it communicates the general feeling more than anything else. The vision statement is not supposed to give directions on how the team should act in any situation, but instead relays the core values and the end goal. Based on this information the team or individual team members can make decisions that best serve the project.
“A project vision answers why, the essential starting point for inspiring action.” – Robert B. Sowby PMTimes
A vision statement is the main tool to give knowledge on where the project should be going and should not be underestimated. It helps your team members make the right decisions. It motivates to complete tasks that are necessary for the end goal. And it inspires new action or solutions to achieve the desired result. Writing a project vision statement that contains all this is not easy and should be taken seriously. While there are no rules on what this statement has to look like, certain guidelines are recommended.
Writing it down
Once you have defined and understood the project vision, it is time to write your project vision statement. Unfortunately it is not enough to simply write what makes sense for you, but instead you have to think on how to best communicate the message to the team. What words, language and phrasing will they respond best to? Consider these following points to make sure you come up with something that inspires action.
- 1. Make it concise and easy to understand. It is best when your project vision statement is not only easy to understand, but also easy to remember. The shorter and clearer you make it, the less grey area there is for your team members to interpret in their own way. Also, if they can easily remember it, they are more likely to follow it.
- 2. Specify, but do not limit. Your vision statement should define the end goal and additional criteria that will make project a success. However, it should not be focused on one specific way to achieve this end goal. Instead it should allow multiple paths to the desired result and encourage action from both stakeholders and the team.
- 3. Look into the future. When writing a project vision statement, your focus should be on what you aim to achieve in a certain time frame. Instead of focusing on what you want now, look 5, 10, 20 years ahead and set your goals on where you want to be. Thus driving your operation forward and aiming to reach certain results in a certain time frame.
- 4. Make it inspirational and challenging. Your vision statement should be about something that the whole team is excited to achieve. At the same time, this goal should be something of a challenge that would be possible long-term and not in the near future. This way your team is excited to work hard in order to get something that is possible along the way.
- 5. Don’t be too specific. When writing your vision, leave some space for changes. It is impossible to know what will happen in the next five years, thus keeping some vagueness to your goal means it won’t become inapplicable down the road.
- 6. Write about who you are. The best vision statements are about who you are as a company or team and who you wish to become.
It is important to remember, that project vision statement is not a detailed project plan. Usually the statements are just a few sentences long and aim to cover all or at least few of the points above.
Another thing to note is, that while deciding on a project vision can be a solitary task, writing the project vision statement shouldn’t be. Involving the whole or just a part of the team into the process is a great idea. Thus you should make sure everyone is involved no matter the distance. It will help use words and phrases that connect with the team as well as make them feel part of the team and the end goal.
Summarize your vision statement together, writing just one sentence as a persuasive phrase. In time this may evolve and become the solitary sentence in your project vision statement.
All of this sounds great, but you are still unsure about what your project vision statement should look like? Let’s first take a look at some statements from the largest companies in the world. These are vision statements for a whole company instead of just one project, however they really showcase just how such statements can and should be written.
First up, soft beverage giant PepsiCo. Here, the vision statement is composed out of a short statement and a longer explanation.
“BE THE GLOBAL LEADER IN CONVENIENT FOODS AND BEVERAGES BY WINNING WITH PURPOSE
This reflects our ambition to win sustainably in the marketplace and accelerate our top line growth, whilst keeping our commitment to do good for the planet and our communities. It builds on decades of progress we’ve made since PepsiCo was founded in 1965, while setting a firm foundation for a new era of growth and prosperity. To help us achieve this vision, we’ve defined a new set of aspirations: to become Faster, Stronger, and Better.” – PepsiCo
LinkedIn and Tesla
The following two statements are more concise and clear. They are comprised out of a single sentence that reflects each companies’ vision towards the future and represent how little you need to write for your vision to be understood.
“Create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.” – LinkedIn
“To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” – Tesla
Project Vision Statement
When talking about project vision statements, the best formula to follow is this – (Action) a (deliverable) that (criteria). An example of this could be – Create (action) a furniture catalog (deliverable) that informs and attracts new clients (criteria). Here are a couple more examples from Robert B. Sowby:
“Take to market a copier that is small, inexpensive, and reliable enough for personal use on a secretary’s desk.”
“Design an onboarding program that quickly transforms new employees into valuable long-term contributors.”
“Prepare a prioritized list of low-cost engineering recommendations that guides the organization to more energy-efficient operations.”
Another great example that Robert mentions in his article is from a company none other than Boeing. It talks about the vision for their 777 program and the capabilities of their flagship airplane. The project vision statement reads like this:
“Denver to Honolulu on a hot day.” – Boeing 777
While this may mean very little to an outsider, for Boeing personnel it is a great project vision statement that shows direction, but does not interfere in how this direction is reached. It also outlines specific circumstances such as the duration and weather conditions of the flight. Which gives the team all they need to know of the end goal.
When writing a project vision statement you have to come up with something that speaks and resonates with your team specifically. It could be something as simple as – “Provide business X with a project management solution that meets the needs of an engineering team”. Or something more elaborate like the vision statement from PepsiCo.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that a project vision statement is only as effective as it is understood and embraced by the project team.
Project vision in Agile
Having a clear project vision statement is as important in Agile projects, as in any other method. Therefore it should be done no matter which Agile application your team is using. The vision definition is written at the very beginning of the project and sets the tone for the whole operation. In Kanban, this statement is a collaboration with the whole team and the main stakeholders. While in Scrum it is the Product Owner and the stakeholders that define the goals and thus the vision.
The process of writing a vision statement for Agile teams is exactly the same as for any other team. You have to think about the product goals, customers, and their needs and come up with a statement that guides your team towards the desired result. One benefit of Agile being a visualized project management process that is centered around the task board is the ability to keep the project vision statement visible at all times. Place it on or near your task board and have it constantly present for your team.