In the past I’ve heard people stress the importance of mission, vision, and value statements. Whether they are the same or different in definition traditionally is not important. What is important is the need for all stakeholders of any initiative to agree on the basic goals of an effort. I’ve read a few texts for example (Crossing the Chasm) which provide guidance and exercises that groups can use to define an appropriate project vision, but few if any extend it to apply to a larger product vision. Product vision statements are less about the focus of the moment (features, functions, user requests, and current competitive demands) and more about staying true to the specifics that gave your idea legs in the first place. If you pivot and the fundamentals that formed the foundation for your product shift – either your product vision statement must change or you have a new product. I’d suggest it’s more likely the latter scenario.
Assuming you use this product vision statement properly to frame each product planning session with your company’s stakeholders – how do you continue to get consensus on your team and drive product innovation?
Pick a Product Champion
With start-ups this is almost always the originating entrepreneur/founder/co-founder. In all cases it’s the person with that passion and enthusiasm for the unique solution presented by your product idea.
Be a Diplomat
Be inclusive. Let all ideas flow freely. Don’t squash anything, and capture it all. Then, revisit these ideas for each new release planning session.
Develop a Culture of Innovation
Consider developing a culture that harnesses the excitement of your team by sharing control. Assign individual build managers based on their expertise and passion for the solution. Then share the wins by acknowledging their leadership and foster a culture of innovation.
Improve fast and improve often. Learn from everything. Engage all areas of your business (marketing, operations, sales), your products users, your development team, your infrastructure team, your partners, and your vendors. Provide a feedback loop and a collection point for suggestions and ideas. Don’t assume you and your team know everything (You Don’t)!
I’ll get more into these ideas in future posts. For now – I’d like to hear what you do on your team to drive innovation and gain consensus to grow your software products intelligently. Theory is great, but real world examples and in the trenches stories are invaluable. So tell me – how do you do it?