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I am planning on facilitating one or more sessions with key stakeholders in order to define and document a shared "vision" for the end-state coming out of a planned business improvement project. This vision will feed into further sessions to define what the end product(s) will look like and to develop an outline business case, and hopefully will have the side-benefit of getting the stakeholders engaged from the outset.

What tools, templates or techniques will be effective in facilitating this kind of discussion, and why?

  • Thanks for all of your help. I've passed on the following questions to the team to guide them in developing their own vision statement to bring to our first discussion: 1. Why do we need to change process X? 2. What needs must this change address? 3. What does our “perfect future” look like? 4. What benefits/savings do we expect to enjoy in our “perfect future”? 5. What are we willing to do/risk/pay/sacrifice to achieve our “perfect future”? 6. How does our “perfect future” align with our corporate values and priorities? – Doug B Sep 17 '12 at 14:02
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The first steps of an Inception Deck might be a good way to define a project vision. In particular the four first questions are dedicated to make sure that everybody is on the same page about what the project is and is not. In short:

Why are we here?

What is the number one motivation that makes your customer want to spend money on the project? The main goal, the number one driver?

Elevator pitch

How would you describe the project if you were in an elevator and only had 30 seconds? Helps you define who, what and why.

The product box

If we had to sell the product,what would make customers buy it? what are the key advantages of the product?

The NOT list

Defines what the project is not. Helps you define the precise scope of the project.

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I recommend to check out the Beyond Budgeting approach from Bjarte Bogsnes which talks about the ambition to action process.

The ambition to action is a very interesting process and an effective vision and tool setting idea. It is a process which empowers strong performance, sustainable results, strategic objectives, KPIs, actions and forecasts. Here is a score card example:

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The vision (ambition) is on the top, and under that you can see what the necessary objectives to achieve that vision, how to measure (see where you are at the moment) and what are the steps (actions) required to finish that objective. Each organization has a score card like this and the ambitions should support the higher ambitions. If an ambition doesn't fit into the big picture, it should be refined until it fits. Of course the ambitions can change, but it requires a discussion, which is good.

It is a very good idea to find the right vision (ambition), see where you are and what you have to do in order to get there.

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First things first

Vision should come after mission and values discussion. Vision must be associated with values as it communicates both the purpose and values of the organization.

Proposed steps

In one of my recent projects, I used below steps:

1. Open discussion
I found good guided questions and steps on Mission Statement Builder for teams. I used those to brainstorm and open discussion with the team about team mission. Questions like:

  1. What does our team want to be known for?
  2. How do we want to treat each other?
  3. What kind of workplace do we want to have?
  4. What unique talents and skill does each person bring to the team?
  5. What do we want to achieve?
  6. What unique contributions can we make?

2. Everyone writes a vision statement
After mission and values discussion and prioritization, everyone asked to put a vision statement in his own way and communicate it on the project discussion board for all to read.

3. Highlight words
In later meeting, everyone say his statement, make short discussion. By the end, we highlighted important words (values, actions, target, ...) in the target statement.

4. Draft statements
I, then, took all statements, highlights, word and produce 2 draft statements. This could be also done in the previous step meeting.

5. Produce one statement
At last, with the team, put the 2 statements in front of all and choose which one or may be come out with combined one.

Things to consider

  • Vision statements sometimes evolve with time and depend on the maturity level of the image of the end-product.
  • It's also a good practice to look at other companies and products vision statements, sometime it's inspiring.
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No real templates necessary. It's more of guiding down a set of questions and discussions.

I like Rami's answer. I also use the five W's - who, what, when, where, and most important - -why?

Start with discussing the 'why'. Why are we doing this? Why was this group formed? What need are we trying to fill? Why 'us'? What's the "to-be" vision? Do we all agree on it?

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