Does your project have a comprehensive vision? If so, is the vision understandable by all project team members and stakeholders? Does the vision inspire and keep the team focused? For a project to be successful today, creating a vision that communicates effectively to all is a necessity, not a luxury. That’s because no project can make serious progress without a clear understanding of where it is going and what it is trying to achieve. It is too easy to start developing the solution before you fully understand the problem!
Alternatively, when the project manager’s view of the project’s product lacks imagination, even inspiration, the effort becomes dull, bureaucratic and unclear. Though we may be trained in project management stuff, the objective is not to produce project management “stuff” according to some methodological ritual, but rather to produce useful project product materials that will as an end result bring value to the business.
A vision is a description of the desired state or ultimate condition that should exist after the project has been completed. It is typically expressed in a vision statement, which is a clear and brief summary of what the project team members and their stakeholders expect to achieve. A good vision will describe the desired state and will also reference stakeholder interests as well as providing relevant background. A clear, well-articulated vision with convincing project outcomes effectively communicated can make a strong and positive impact upon project success.
Defining a vision enables the core project team to discuss and agree on the broad purpose of their project. A clear vision becomes particularly important in multi-stakeholder efforts in which different partners may have radically different ideas of what they would like to accomplish. For example, if some of the stakeholders are interested in process improvement and others are primarily interested in getting something quick to solve an immediate problem, there will be conflicting expectations.
A clear vision that is effectively communicated can prevent many problems and help project teams negotiate how stakeholders will work together. Without clear boundaries, there may be considerable confusion among staff and stakeholders as to where the project ends, and there is a risk of being drawn into an ever-widening circle of interventions. A well crafted vision statement grabs and directs the project team’s attention, sets their agenda, and energizes their work. This statement becomes the common starting point for discussion about more specific activities and outcomes.
Although this sounds like it should be relatively easy to define a vision, many organizations struggle with this task. A good vision statement should focus on the desired outcome of the project/goal at its completion date. Guidelines for writing compelling and powerful vision statements include, among others:
Summarize Your Vision in a Powerful Phrase
If possible, try to summarize your vision using a powerful phrase in the first paragraph of the vision statement. Capturing the essence of your vision using a simple memorable phrase can greatly enhance the effectiveness of the vision statement. This phrase will serve as a trigger to the rest of the vision in the mind of everyone that reads it.
Take for instance Microsoft’s vision of “A personal computer in every home running Microsoft software.” This simple yet powerful phrase can be used throughout the organization (hallways, internal web pages, plaques, etc.) to remind everyone of the vision.
If you are having trouble coming up with a summarizing phrase, try adding one after you’ve written the rest of the vision statement.
Vision Statements should Describe People, Process, and Technology
Let’s face it. To be successful, an IT project must addresses much more than technology. The vision should describe the process, how the technology supports the process, and how stakeholders will benefit from the new solution.
Ensure that the Vision is Aligned with Organizational Goals
If your vision for the project is not in alignment with the organization’s vision, you are less likely to get commitment from the necessary stakeholders. Try to link the vision to achieving a specified corporate objective.
Ensure the Reader Gets a Sense of Importance
From reading the vision, readers should be able to understand and verbalize why the project is important and be able to see how the solution, once implemented, will help the organization obtain its desired state and outcomes.
Take as Much Space as You Need
Good visions require more than one sentence. The purpose is to create a mental picture charged with emotion that can serve to energize and inspire you and your team, while at the same time ensuring that you all have the same understanding. Take as much space as you need to accomplish this goal.
Where does the project vision come from? Ideally, it should come from the project sponsor, but it doesn’t always. A business analyst or a project manager on behalf of the project sponsor often prepares the vision. If this is the case, the sponsor must approve and be willing to support the vision. A good vision promotes leadership. So it is up to the project manager to gain a proper understanding of the sponsor’s intent and interpret that into the project vision. Clearly that requires access to all the relevant information. Today’s popular word in this respect is “transparency.”
The vision document provides the project owner with an idealized description of the project and the outcomes that will make the business change for the better. In the end, it all adds up to leadership and managing. The impression from current leadership literature seems to suggest that many projects are over-managed and under-led, where “management” has to do with the details of initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing. Yet the opposite can also be true. There are many projects where the person in charge over-leads and under-manages. Such projects fail not because of a lack of vision, mission and goals but simply because these leaders are not capable of managing the vision into existence.