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In my former question I've asked about visions for a team with multiple projects. My boss suggested that we should aim "working toward to high quality standards and efficiency" (or something related/similar) since we are not perfect in these (who is it?).

Although it's a good direction and we take steps to improve our ways of working it does not seem to be a good vision since I feel myself weird to commit to this vision. Is it a great/poor vision? Why?

  • As per the amounts of answers on this question, I might be wrong, but IMHO this question would fit better @ Workplace.SE – Tiago Cardoso Jul 2 '13 at 21:47
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TL;DR

Pithy slogans belong on coffee mugs. Real vision statements guide your organization's strategic goals.

Vision Statements Defined

According to a Wikipedia entry:

[A vision statement] outlines what the organization wants to be, or how it wants the world in which it operates to be (an "idealised" view of the world). It is a long-term view and concentrates on the future. It can be emotive and is a source of inspiration. For example, a charity working with the poor might have a vision statement which reads "A World without Poverty."

However, simply expressing a desire to be "working toward to (sic) high quality standards and efficiency" is so generic and semantically null as to be irrelevant. It might help guide your group's development of process, or be good grist for the mill during a retrospective, but it isn't really a vision.

Good Vision Statements

According to one source, good vision statements should focus on "what your business does and what...you would like it to do[.]" Your boss's generic slogan doesn't measure up in that regard, even though it's probably a worthwhile team objective.

By all means, develop high standards (which you can then include in your "definition of done") and improve your efficiency in some measurable way. Those are certainly worthwhile goals for any project. These vague procedural objectives don't really amount to a vision statement, though; the tenets are myopic at best, and are not intrinsically inspiring or reflective of a strategic goal.

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I recommend taking a leaf from Tom Gilb's book and actually trying to put some metrics around "quality" and "efficiency". This may mean splitting them up. For instance, if part of "quality" is "ease of maintenance", can you put a metric on it? How long should it take to fix a minor bug? How long to ship it to production? What's that like compared to your current metrics?

This will help clarify what exactly is meant by "quality", as well as helping you find specific areas in which "quality" is lacking. You'll also be able to objectively measure the different aspects which you target, and see if the changes you make are having an effect. You could also look out for the riskiest aspects, where it might be hard to achieve a tolerable measurement, or where the company has never previously managed to achieve it.

A side-effect might be that your boss realises that his "vision" doesn't dovetail with the objectives of the company as mentioned by @doug-b. Look out for that early and see if you can find the definitions of "quality" and "efficiency" which do actually play into the company's goals and differentiators. Remember that if a measurement doesn't actually play into those goals and differentiators then targeting a tolerable level is plenty.

I also recommend reading Eliyahu Goldratt et al's "The Goal", and Gene Kim et al's "The Phoenix Project" (the second references the first quite heavily). Both of these are easy reads, both fiction books. The first introduces Theory of Constraints, and the second introduces Kanban for software development and shows how it plays on the second. These should give you some really great ways of looking at your work and managing the flow, as well as some useful language for pushing back if the work becomes overwhelming. You can follow up with David J. Anderson's "Kanban" if you'd like some more advice on how to implement the ideas.

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Are you the only one talking to your boss about this, and is the discussion ad hoc? If this is the case I don't think you've got a "vision" so much as an "opinion" on what your priorities should be.

A vision provides you with guidance on what your overriding priorities are with everything your organization does. It should dovetail into your corporate values, purpose and mission statement. It should define the essence of how your organization sets itself apart from everyone else. It shoudl be simple enough that everyone in your organization can understand it and work towards it... even if they don't buy into it.

Given this, I don't think it is necessarily possible to say objectively that any given vision is good or bad. What is good for me isn't necessarily good for you.

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I would rather adopt an empirical view of things. I would constantly inspect the current state of the project/team/department and have an open discussion with the team to determine what is slowing down, impacting performance and reducing quality.

The next is to be transparent about the findings to all interested parties. By being open and honest about weaknesses is the first step in correcting them. As a bad analogy, an alcaholic cannot be helped until he/she admits there is a problem; likewise a team cannot resolve dysfunction/impediments until they admit there is a problem that needs fixing.

Finally, the team with the help of management and other stakeholders need to set in a plan of action to help remove or change that corrects the problem and give the team what they need to improve quality.

It's all nice for your boss to put this vision in place, however what is the boss going to do the help the team achieve the vision. To be blunt, a vision means nothing unless the boss commits to assisting the team with whatever it takes to meet this vision.

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Efficiency initiatives often become cost-reduction-driven. Quality is about pride of workmanship. Personally, I don't find them to work well together. Better focus.

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All mission statements and goals should be tangible. There should be number associated with it. The approach should be scientific. Ask you boss if he wants to increase the FP delivered per month, or does he want to reduce % of defects delivered per release or does he want the Employee satisfaction index to go up. Just saying that we want more efficiency and better quality means nothing until it is measured. Since it is IT company by all means Efficiency and Quality should be one of the goals.

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