Define your vision of wild success

In Getting Things Done, David Allen outlines a simple five-step process for organizing small projects. I’ve found the first two steps (“Define your purpose and principles,” and “outcome visioning”) to be quite helpful, and I’d like to share with you an easy way to build a team’s vision of wild success.

Your vision will be in narrative format, written in the present tense, describing what the world will be like when your project is complete. The more specific your narrative, the better.

Building a concrete vision of success helps people better understand the scope of a project and ensure nothing’s been left out. My wife and I built a narrative for our wedding day, for example, which helped us think through the music that would be playing, the procession, and all the other things we really cared about but otherwise might have forgotten to talk about or to prepare.

Choose a future date for your narrative–July 1, 2014 for example. Then create a document for your vision that everyone affected can access, review, and comment on.

If you want to build the vision as a team, plan a meeting. Make sure the meeting participants understand the purpose, principles, and constraints. If you’re building a vision as part of a project, this activity will probably occur after the project charter is complete.

Then open the blank document and begin it by saying something like “The day is Tuesday, July 1, 2014.” (In this case I looked up the day of the week for July 1, 2014 to make the vision statement more concrete.)

If your project were to improve your Service Desk, the vision statement may say things like…

  • Throughout the work day, there is never more than one user waiting for service.
  • Staff smile and have a helpful attitude while working through problems.
  • The walk-in area feels fresh and new.
  • Users’ problems are handled quickly.
  • Coffee is freely available. :-)

People will most likely want to follow up on vague statements: for example Service Desk staff may say it’s difficult to keep smiling for eight hours, resulting in additional statements:

  • Service Desk staff have regular breaks throughout the day.
  • They have free food available.
  • There is a punching ball in the back.

Building this narrative is a great way to ensure people are on the same page, to better define the scope of the project, and to make sure the vision is complete.

The vision can then be reviewed and updated as the project continues. Its contents can also be checked against and refactored into the work breakdown structure.

Building a vision of wild success is very helpful, and is easier the more is known about the project. If people are less familiar with the project, consider building shorter-term narratives (i.e. a vision statement for the next month) and also try to manage the problems your project is trying to solve.