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Vision is the tool that enables doers to make choices without asking the boss

What makes it work: congruence, simplicity, uniqueness

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This message is not only targeted to Product Owners and their teams, but also to management and executive:

Providing with a vision is the cornerstone of self-organization.

Let’s have a look at what is expected to happen in a company:

In each of these examples, somebody shares a vision but doesn’t take over execution. The doers organize as they see fit to get it done — in fact, they organize in the best possible way because, it is proven fact, the best hierarchical level to make a decision is the lowest possible level able to make the decision. Indeed this vision is what will make it happen instead of resorting back to micro-management.

So we articulate an abstract need, a business objective to achieve or an issue to solve and we don’t point to any solution, list of tasks to do or organization to put in place.


And this is how you let self-organization foster.

For instance by providing Product Owners with objectives to achieve rather than features to specify without thinking.

Or by providing engineers with issues to solve rather than solutions to implement without thinking.

Why? It’s simple, really:

Let’s say that you provide me with a plan and instructions rather than a vision. What happens when the plan must be changed? I have to ask you what to do.

And we’re working in Agile precisely because plans eventually change or are updated — sooner or later.

Vision is a choice-making tool

On the other hand, if you provide me with a vision — in other words when you truly share the significance of what we want to achieve — then I am able to choose the action to be taken, in autonomy and at my level. I will consider the alternatives and I will choose the one that moves us the most closer to this vision.

Even better, I will make this choice while taking into account product and technical constraints, which I know better than you because I am in the action. Indeed, I am the doer, I am the expert.

Thanks to the vision, I am able to make choices, at my level.

What makes a good vision?

These are the qualities that I find vital to build a good vision:

The power of ‘no’

During our feedback given at Agile en Seine, Richard placed considerable emphasis in knowing how to say ‘no’. I can only agree with him. These are a few consequences on the team of the previous inability to say no:

In short, it was not a pretty sight.

So how do you come to say ‘no’? Well, precisely with a vision!

We are not looking for super-heroes. Our focus and capabilities are limited. We need this vision to know where and how to spend our limited supply of energy.

Having a vision is a prerequisite, not an optional extra!

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