Friday, October 01, 2010

Vision is Spelled "R-I-S-K"

I remember the first time I heard the Product Owner in Scrum referred to as "the single throat to choke." I was watching a video about the roles in agile. It was on YouTube and done by someone with a nice, therapeutic voice named Lyssa Adkins (who turns out to be a nice, therapeutic person who knows a ton about agile and gifted in helping others achieve and be more than they thought they could). At the time, I thought that phrase used in the video was a bit strong, yet I agreed and respected it. I use it today. And it is not just true for Product Owners, it's true for anyone in a position of leadership.

Product Owners, ScrumMasters, architects, leads, managers and those above them are just some of the roles and titles that are in some aspect about leadership, and vision is a significant attribute of leadership. Ken Blanchard wrote that after "studying leadership and organizations for more than thirty-five years and have come to a conclusion: All the world-class organizations we know are driven by three critical factors," the first of which is "clear vision and direction championed by top management", adding "Vision and direction are essential for greatness."

Vision is seeing something ahead, in the future, that is some positive, fulfilling goal or desire of what you or your team or company (or country, or family) could be. When sharpened, it stirs you, motivates you, bugs you, pulls you into action. And when sown into those around you, it will often do the same for them. Ken Blanchard described vision as "being so clear about purpose, so committed to it, and so sure about your ability to accomplish it, that you move ahead decisively despite any obstacles." Vision, like faith, is being "sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." And borrowing from what a pastor once said, Vision, like faith, is spelled "R-I-S-K."

In order to have a truly compelling vision for our product or service, for our team, for our company or ourselves, we at some point have to step out into some unknown. Jim Collins' vision framework includes BHAGs - "big, hairy audacious goals." If we limit ourselves to only a safe next step, "like X but better", we miss the power of challenge, good anxiety, and focus that are part of the traits of good Scrum teams. Those traits draw teams together and yield the multiplier effect.

Helpful links on items mentioned:
Jim Collins' 14 page Vision Framework guide
That Vision Thing, article by Ken Blanchard

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