Finding a vision

A direction is important for every team, and if not provided with one, the team will invent their own.

A few years ago I was working for a company that was in the process of being sold. This process took over a year, and for the first part we didn’t even know who the new buyers would be. During that time, a common theme from middle and upper management was “Let’s wait to see what the new owners think.”

I don’t want to say that’s a bad approach in some cases. But it did leave our engineering teams in a bit of a bind. What should their priorities be? Nobody wanted to tell us.

So we all got together, and developed our own product vision. It took a couple of weeks, as I recall, but in the end we had something like a product vision or engineering mission statement, which we printed out and hung on the wall near our work areas.

A week or so after doing this, one of the middle managers asked me to remove the statement, as he wasn’t confident it was in line with what the new owners would want.

“Well, we could remove it. But this is what the teams understand themselves to be working toward. Removing the printed statement won’t change that, it will only that reality.”

He acquiesced, and the statement stayed.

What’s the moral of the story? Having a vision or a direction, is important for every team. If leadership doesn’t provide one, the team will come up with their own, whether they’re aware of it or not.

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