Communicating Vision as a Leader

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of Management by Walking Around. One time, when I was a manager, I was wandering around doing my management thing and I was sitting at a desk with an engineer who was working on a project. As they showed me what they were doing, I realized the solution they were designing and building was based on an architectural design the team had moved away from, and the design this engineer was building was no longer relevant. I showed the engineer all of the documents and architecture diagrams that were posted on the internal project site and we discussed how to pivot their task and design.

In retrospect, I’ve wondered if the engineer experienced that same frustration we all have, of “management just never tells us what’s going on!” For my part, I was deeply concerned and frustrated with myself. How had this happened? I felt like I legitimately tried to communicate the vision, strategy, and direction, so how come this engineer wasn’t aware of it?

Codify It

As you may have guessed by this blog, I love to write. As crazy as it sounds, I also like building architecture diagrams and making presentation slide decks. If you’ve worked with me extensively, you know one of my inside jokes is, no matter the topic, “oh, I’ve got a slide deck for that!” or “oh, I’ve got a whitepaper on that!”.

My point is, one of the key functions of a leadership role is to define and communicate the vision and strategy. So why not prioritize and put forth the effort to codify and present this critical information for all the stakeholders to see it? This also has multiple secondary effects; it forces you to ensure the vision and strategy exists and is definable, and can be clearly communicated to others.

This is your opportunity to be creative and build whatever narrative, prose, or visual depiction of the vision and strategy that you’d like. I’ve always liked David Cummings’ One Page Strategic Plan but a quick internet search for “project one-pager” presents a wide variety of ideas.

Communicate It

As a leader and manager, an important lesson to learn is that different people receive and process data and information differently. So you need to communicate this critical information out to your team in as many ways as possible, while also being mindful to not overwhelm them either.

Post it to your corporate intranet. Send out an email (not too often, maybe once every two weeks). Present it at a team all-hands meeting. Present it, or at least present the links, at key sprint ceremony events. Perhaps even record a short video or webcast of you presenting the vision and strategy, and post and share that video.

Measure It

A common management saying goes something like this, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t tell if you are improving.” The vision and strategy you have codified and posted should also come with a list of specific, achievable goals, along with a means of measuring the progress towards those goals. Then over time, you can see whether the direction that the team is moving in, is indeed the correct direction towards the goal, and thus aligned with the strategy and vision.

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A key responsibility of a leader is clearly defining the strategy and vision for a team. So take the time to be intentional in effectively communicating it.

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