Turning Vision into Reality: Tips for Aligning Product Vision with Product Strategy
How to bridge the gap and connect story with the drivers of success
When creating a Product Vision, we don’t consider implementation, goals, or obstacles. We are trying to dream about a future in which our users are more successful with the help of our product. When our artifact is ready, we share it with the world, and the vision work is done. Or isn’t it?
When doing strategy, we think about problems, opportunities, advantages… and it is easy to get bogged down in this diagnosis, the definition of potential targets, and overall “how we grow and improve” strategic thinking.
Both of these facts lead to a disconnection between vision and strategy. No one did anything wrong. But we missed something we should have done: ensuring you are moving towards the future you want to create.
How do you make this link from the sci-fi story to what you will execute tomorrow? By understanding the building blocks of your vision. You are not done with your vision when the artifact is ready. You don’t have a solid strategy if its progress doesn’t get you closer to your vision. Today we will explore how to bridge that gap…
Table of contents
Note: this article is (finally!) the last part of a 5-part series
Sharing your vision and connecting it to strategy (this article)
Sharing your vision
In our last article, we ended with a ready-to-use artifact. Of course, that is merely the output. The outcome you expect is a shared understanding and aligned execution toward your vision.
To achieve it, the logical next step is to share it. There are many sources on presentation and storytelling if you want to make a powerful “unveiling” of your vision. But the hard truth is that no matter how good the show is, the first exhibition is not nearly enough.
You need to repeat and advocate your vision constantly. How to do it without boring all your team members (and yourself!) is a bit of a craft. But in essence, it boils down to:
Having an abridged version of your story: you should be able to tell the vision in a few sentences. Without being tedious, this helps re-introduce the concept in all-hands, quarterly planning, or other critical meetings. You can change a few aspects of this short version every time, maybe highlighting what is essential at that moment (for example, what is aligned with the next quarter's goals).
Keep your memorable protagonist alive: when discussing outcomes, it’s easy to refer back to your protagonist (“Now Joe would be able to achieve X” or “Remember we are doing this to solve Joe’s problem”). It’s an easy trick to keep people thinking back to your vision story without repeating it.
Relate to the value proposition: Similarly, in more tactical discussions, you can refer to how the topic you are doing/planning/evaluating connects to one of the critical differentiators or values highlighted in your vision.
In summary, do it however you feel more comfortable, but as a leader, it is your job to ensure that a shared vision leaves in people’s minds, not archived artifacts.
A short note on Vision Video
I would admit I love vision videos, so I will make a slight detour.
For scale-ups or larger companies (let’s say, more than 50 people in the product development disciplines), where there is no frequent and direct contact from vision “creators” to everyone, an excellent tool to keep the vision present is the vision video.
The video is built on top of your storyboard with a more detailed narrative and powerful visuals. Thus, it can provide a motivational message in a few minutes. The video can “advocate on behalf of the leader.” Anyone in the organization can use it during their own kick-off or review meetings, onboarding materials, planning, and brainstorms. It can even help those leaders who are not that strong at storytelling embed their sessions with the vision concept without relying on them doing a masterful speech.
Connecting to strategy
Now let’s jump on how to connect this story you are advocating with the strategy you will follow to get there.
As said for other sections in this article series, there are multiple ways (and more art than science), but let’s describe a method to get you started.
Finding the building blocks
The first part is “deconstructing” your vision into key components to deliver the value and differentiation you want to create and defend in the market. They provide a high-level abstraction of the problems you must solve or opportunities you must pursue with your strategy. This may sound abstract, but in truth, it can be done in two straightforward ways:
Your storyboard depicted some user struggles and how your product helped overcome them. Those “how to(s)" are the value you are trying to deliver, and you can extract and generalize them into building blocks. Returning to one example from our last article, we mentioned showing advanced and futuristic filters for a marketplace product. The generalized building block can be “Ultimate search precision.”
We based our storyboard on Future Positioning (an activity we covered in the third article of this series). This was based on a combination of Core Value Propositions and “What is needed” to achieve it. These can be quickly transcribed as your building blocks. Continuing the travel example I mentioned, if a building block is “Unique and Stress-Free experiences,” we need a building block around “ensuring experience quality.”
Remember that, using any of these two methods, you may run into other “non-customer-facing” building blocks. For example, if you are building a marketplace, one building block must deal with building the supply side, which may not be 100% visible in your story but is a critical factor in how you deliver value to the user.
Keep in mind that you may have no idea how to deliver on those building blocks. If our vision was straightforward, it might be too short-sighted or undifferentiated. If you are rightly pursuing an ambitious future, it’s ok that some building blocks are still a big audacious hypothesis.
Setting goals aligned with the vision
While the building blocks are a key connection to strategy, it may be easy to jump into diagnosing and find paths that “get you there in the wrong way.”
Let me use once more the building block around travel experiences. We mentioned “ensuring experience quality” as the block, and a way to measure success can be the conversion rate of our selling experiences funnel. But if we return to the value proposition, we were trying to deliver “Unique and Stress-Free experiences.”
We can set high-level ambitions related to our future value proposition to ensure we don't get lost in translation. These are usually laggard indicators like user satisfaction. Some can be hard to measure (how do we know if our experiences are unique?). Still, it is worth having them to prevent the abovementioned disconnections. It can even trigger robust strategic discussions: “how do we define uniqueness in an experience.” You can even think of them as guardrails for your strategic goals.
Continuing toward a winning strategy
That concludes the work of connecting vision to strategy. Now you can get into the nuts and bolts of strategy creation. You will continue with a more detailed diagnosis and identify and select the right opportunities to move you closer to your vision.
The building blocks will serve as a good filter, guiding you in what to diagnose deeply and what opportunities align with the value proposition you aim to create.
The aligned goals will help you build specific goals for your strategic drivers related to your higher-level ambitions.
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