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As I understand, a vision answers the why of a company, its grand vision, it has to be inspirational but not grandiose and should evoke the right mindset to think about the proper strategies and goals.

Does it make sense to think about it during customer development, in the early stages of a startup?
During these stages, we first aim to identify the problem and try to find a solution to reach market-fit in a profitable market. Isn't it a bit early to think about the meaning and interpretation of the eventual company?

Also, what would be the product strategies during these stages? Haven't the four phases of Customer Development already a predefined strategy of their own, each one with specific goals?

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  • I'm not sure that I understand how this fits within the scope of PM.SE; could you make the linkage more explicit? – MCW Feb 3 at 11:56
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Vision and strategy advances as your company expand. Thinking about and considering customer dev is an essential way to get your priorities straight because there's no such thing as "too early" when building a start-up.

If you don't know what your company is about, you won't be able to provide solution(s) to your customer(s) problem.

Though it may seem like this "the four phases of Customer Development is already a predefined strategy of their own, each one with specific goals", You realise that as your startup grow, your mindset and knowledge would also grow there by giving you an edge to better satisfy your customers which may lead you to take on strategies outside these four phases.

And so, Yes, I believe it makes sense to define a vision or strategy in a Startup during Customer Development.

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    Maybe: "if you don't know what your company is about, you'll never be able to clearly articulate why potential customers ought to become interested in you in the first place." (After all, why should they stick their neck out and maybe risk their careers on "yet another start-up?") Therefore: "what your company is about" must consist of both a new business proposition, and something to persuade (of course ...) skeptics that you actually mean "business." – Mike Robinson Feb 3 at 19:04
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TL;DR

You always start Customer Development with a vision and an initial strategy as process inputs, but they can and must evolve along with your business model. The Customer Development methodology is intrinsically the search for a validated and repeatable business model. Trying to develop a sustainable business model without an initial vision or strategy gives you no effective way to generate testable hypotheses or validated learning.

Detailed Analysis

I think you are fundamentally misunderstanding the role of vision and strategy, regardless of whether you're talking about Customer Development or not.

In general, and without resorting to dictionary definitions:

  1. A vision statement tries to capture where you're going.
  2. A mission statement captures what you're currently doing.
  3. A strategy defines what you plan to do and what you will measure to track your progress along the axes of vision and mission.
  4. A tactical plan (e.g. an implementation plan) describes how you expect to execute your strategy, further the mission, and make progress towards your vision.

The distinctions between vision, mission, strategy, and tactics are somewhat subtle, but they all focus on different-but-overlapping things. You really need all four things in most cases.

The customer development method describes the first of the four steps as:

Customer discovery first captures the founders’ vision and turns it into a series of business model hypotheses. Then it develops a plan to test customer reactions to those hypotheses and turn them into facts.

So, you should already have an initial vision (although it often changes based on validated learning), but you need to continuously refine your strategies, tactics, and product goals along the way. As a rule of thumb, you do this by generating and validating hypotheses about your market, your product, your process, your customer segmentation, et cetera ad nauseum.

As you go through the process, everything and anything about the business may change. This certainly includes the vision and the market strategy, so you can't be wedded to them. However, not having a vision or strategy at all has a technical term: floundering. If you don't like terms that sound like a type of fish, then "wandering around aimlessly in search of a viable business model" is a lot less pithy, but just as accurate.

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A vision statement as well as strategy is not something static.

As the company evolves the vision and strategy will inevitably evolve.

Thus it makes sense that during customer development, as you understand what the potential customers would want and what you can deliver, your vision and strategy will become clearer, or even change.

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  • I understand that strategy is what you want your product to achieve. Is it fair to say that the meaning of all strategies is to reach market-fit? It is still hard for me to understand how to fit the 4 stages of cust dev within the traditional PM concepts. – Aleix Feb 2 at 21:06
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If I may, let me very-kindly your words against you:

"Does it make sense to think about it during customer development, in the early stages of a startup? During these stages, we first aim to identify the problem and try to find a solution to reach market-fit in a profitable market."

"Excuse me ... who exactly do you plan to be selling to, if not these "customers," whom you now should wish to entice to take a chance with you?"

"Problems" are a dime a dozen. So, frankly, are "solutions." Likewise "profitable markets." Your(!) problem is to find a new-and-novel way to "fit" (sic ...) among a stable of existing players who are already(!) propering within those markets. To get anywhere at all, you must very-carefully court them, very-carefully listen to them(!), and try to persuade enough of them that it's in their business interests to gamble in your game.

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