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What if there was a way to both impress investors and keep your team focused? Postlight’s Chappell Ellison is here to tell you that there is! The answer: a simple product vision. This week Chappell joins Chris and Gina to talk about how writing a compelling product vision can help you meet financial goals and stay focused on the purpose of your product. They also discuss the importance of incorporating a human angle into your vision and how doing so can make your product more marketable.

Transcript

Chris LoSacco: That was 20 minutes of gold that we just to—totally lost cause we hadn’t been recording. 

Gina Trapani: It was.

Chappell Ellison: I feel like there’s so many good, spicy opinions in—in tech right now and like..

Gina: So many.

Chappell: I used to be like, “oh, I really should listen to the experts.” But right now I wanna listen to everybody. I want, I want–

Chris: Bring it all on.

Chappell: Yeah, I wanna talk about how everything is melting down with everyone. Yeah. 

Gina: I just—listeners for those—if—if this doesn’t get cut, I just—in the pre-show, before we started recording, I shared that I had a dream that Elon Musk owned our company and laid me off. So we just—

Chappell: [laughs] 

Gina: We’ll just—I’ll just—I’ll leave that there. That was the pre-record button conversation. 

Chris: [laughs] Oh…

[POSTLIGHT INTRO MUSIC]

Chris: Welcome to the Postlight podcast. Postlight is a digital strategy, design and engineering firm. We like to talk about our work with the top talent across the industry. I am joined as always by my co-host and partner in this business, Gina Trapani. How are you, Gina? 

Gina: Hey, Chris. I’m good. I’m excited about our guest today and our topic.

Chris: This is a return guest to the show. She’s an associate director of digital strategy here at Postlight and one of our favorite people, Chappell Ellison. Chappell, hello! 

Chappell: Hi everyone. I kind of—now I want my own segment. Like “Chappell’s Corner” or something. 

Chris: Ooh! 

Gina: You got it. 

Chris: It—it titled itself. 

Gina: Love it. 

Chappell: I know! Especially if you’re—if you’re a return guest, you gotta—I gotta—I gotta get some benefits. You know? 

Gina: [laughs] 

Chris: Right. Chappell’s Corner, you know, thoughts on content, a regular thing. But today we’re not talking about content. Sort of—sort of—sort of. Today we’re talking about vision.

Gina: Vision! Chappell, you wrote an article for our website, postlight.com/insights, and it’s so good. And for those of you listening, we’re gonna link to it in the show notes. And it’s my favorite format of article, which is like, how to do a thing that’s scary and ambiguous… 

Chris: Mm-hmm. 

Gina: …in these—in the following steps. Not because doing hard and ambiguous things like can—can always be perfectly reduced to, you know, steps one through eight. But it, it’s a great starting point for thinking about doing a, you know, hard and, and ambiguous thing. 

Chris: Yes. 

Gina: So I wanted to talk through that today. 

Chris: Let’s start at the beginning. What is a product vision? 

Chappell: So, a product vision is—it’s a narrative that presents compelling evidence as to why your product or software is and will be successful.

Chris: Mm-hmm. 

Chappell: And so that’s a bit abstract. To make it more concrete, it usually comes in the form of a deck or presentation. It can come by many names. 

Chris: Okay.

Chappell: We’re calling it product vision today, but you can call it a strategic vision. You can call it sometimes a North Star. There are many things you can call it. But it tends to be a longer form presentation. Sometimes this is what you might even take as an investor deck. So you—say, you know, you have a new cool idea and you wanna start getting and, you know, attention and—and galvanizing investors, you might take a deck like this to them. They’re a really, really useful thing that is often overlooked in our line of work. But I think it’s really great to talk about. I especially think we could use some optimism. We can talk about new ventures in tech because there are still so many ideas and so many paths to pursue. And if you’re starting out and you’re really not sure where to go first, this is such a great first step.

Chris: Yeah.

Gina: Totally agree. 

Chris: Me too. And it’s—I’m glad we’re gonna talk about what—what it looks like in a very tangible way, because not all teams think this way, right? Like even the fact that you said it comes in the form of a deck, you know, or a set of slides or you know, it’s something more than one sentence. Because there have been lots of people who have written that you need to boil everything down to your 15 second elevator pitch and what you’re saying is, “no, like the product division actually needs to be a little bit more to be effective.” And I really like that. And I think it’s incredibly true that you need to be able to fully express something not in a belabored way but in—in a way that is holistic. I think that a one sentence or a two sentence, you know, “Here’s what we’re trying to go do,” sometimes misses, so maybe we can talk about that. What are the high points someone needs to think about when they’re thinking about their product vision? What are the areas he needs to touch on, and then we can dive into each area.

Chappell: Essentially a product vision—now, just to say, you can—you should have your elevator pitch too. Always. Because you literally will get in an elevator with someone and have time to tell them about your idea. That’s the whole point at the—the name of the thing. But this is a longer version that has more evidence for when people really need a little bit more from you to understand why they should believe in you and what you’re doing. They might need to see some facts, some, some audience data. So the main things that this sort of vision usually focuses on is, one is your—just your challenges and your opportunities. You know, you might be scared to put your challenges in front of investors or in front of—of people who are interested in your company. You will look smart by showing “I know how hard this could be.” It’s really important that you show, “Hey, I’ve done my research. I know this isn’t easy. Because if it were easy, everyone would be doing it, right?” And then you also two, defining the audience and—and their needs and, and really their pain points. Why is the thing you’re making going to solve a big need? Where—what is it that audiences are—are struggling with or grappling with that you are going to solve? The third thing is—is really just introducing the product. Just, “Hey, and here it is. Here’s the thing. Here’s the big solve.” And I would say 3.5 or four is even getting into expressing what the product experience could be like. Sometimes people do that through, like, wire frames, or sometimes it’s just through words, a description. Sometimes it might even be through experienced principles. “Here—here are the themes to expect when you use this product.” So those are kind of the main areas to start honing in on. I’m not saying this is something you can do overnight. It’s gonna take you time, it’s gonna take your team—you tend to wanna do this with your team, or maybe a co-founder or—or—or someone who can help you bounce ideas. And you refine this deck over time. It might—it’s—it should be a living document in a way. Something that you start here, maybe it’s only five or six slides, but over time you can build in more research to it. Make it even more of an airtight case why the thing you’re doing. Is the thing that’s gonna change lives. And I mean, not to be like—you do kind of wanna be a little dramatic, you know, like I know that not everything—if you’re making an app that’s like a, you know, it’s a app to help you find hotels for dogs. Maybe that’s not changing the world on this big grand scale that some might think. But it is improving lives one step at a time. And you really have to believe that when you start writing these things, because you have to—you have to convince others. It’s your—it’s make your dream their dream, know what I’m saying?

Gina: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, this is—this is why—I mean, why write a product vision? Why create this—this stack? It’s useful because you’re—you need to unlock, you know, customers, investors, new employees. In our world, when we’re talking to executives at our clients, like they need to sell a story up and across and down to be like, we need to, you know, like we have a big compelling “why.” And this is—this is what it is. Why do you think Chappell, you said earlier you think that the product vision or drawing out a strategic vision or a product vision is often overlooked in technology. Why do you think that is? Why don’t, why don’t we do more of this? 

Chappell: Well, you know, I think it becomes a thing that you think kind of creates itself over time. And it—it definitely can, you know, don’t get me wrong. If you have the—if you can afford the time to sit with your team and kind of noodle on your product for a while without needing any investment or support, then hey, your, your product vision might grow as you make the thing. But for others you might need support immediately. And so really getting your vision on paper can help. I—you know, every industry has a version of this, you know like in the—like the gaming industry, you have sort of this source of truth document. It’s, like, kind of—I can’t remember the—it’s like sometimes called the game design document, I think, where it is the first thing that everyone on the team sees. “Here’s sort of the idea we have in mind, the vision. Here are the characters, the types of mechanics we think it’s gonna require.” Now, that thing might become completely outdated within a couple of weeks as the team starts developing, and that’s okay. But it’s always good to continue to refine a source of truth because guess what? You’re gonna have new team members. You’re gonna have new people come in, you’re gonna have new investors. You always need to maintain some sort of source of truth that shows exactly why you are doing what you’re doing and what it’s gonna mean for others and for, you know, people’s, you know, bottom line if they’re investing in you. 

Gina: Right, right. I—I think sometimes the mistake that people make is that they—because they’re, like, living it and they’re in it day to day, is just so blatantly obvious to them why, you know, being able to find a hotel for dogs is so important. So they’ll be like, well, you know, we’re making it up to help find a hotel—you know, and—and you get that, like, blank—that blank look and like, “can you say more about that?” I was like, “well, obviously this is making people’s lives better.” You know, it just—it, it’s a little bit of, you know, tunnel vision because…

Chris: They assume.

Gina: …they assume. They assume that the value is clear. That the—that the—that the market need is there. That it’s, you know, it’s—it’s clear you know, what the big story is and how’s it gonna improve lives, and, and that’s just not it’s tunnel vision. I also think that in tech we tend to—we’re problem solvers and system thinkers, or I should say system thinkers and problem solvers are typically like, you know, drawn into tech. And we tend to be like, let’s roll up our sleeves and get started building.

Chris: Yeah. 

Gina: You know, without—without formulating that—that story about the why. That—that’s my theory anyway. 

Chris: I think there’s another—another explanation, which is that software products, that some successful ones can be long lived, and as team changes happen, people just join and don’t—don’t worry about this. Like they don’t think about it. They don’t take the time to restate some of these goals. It—it goes back to your point Gina. You know, it’s—it’s like there’s an assumption that, “well, everybody just gets it.” But, you know, as time keeps moving on and as team turnover happens, then those things that are—that were implicit are no longer implicit. And it’s very easy to get in a situation, especially in bigger companies, where you have teams who are pretty disconnected from their product vision, actually, but they don’t think—they don’t think about it. They don’t ever take the moment to step back and say, wait a second. I need to make sure that I am clear on what my team is doing. And also connected to the larger mission of the—of the company. The overarching goal. You know, time goes forward and people join—people leave and people join, and then you end up in a place where what was once clear is now very, very much not clear. Right? 

Chappell: I mean, one of the many ways that I advise people to—who are kind of struggling on how to advance their career, they’re—they feel like they’re still little too junior, if you invest in understanding the entire landscape and the business goals and the vision of what you’re working on, and you really show that to your team and your leaders, you will be surprised at how fast you get put on a stage. You get pushed up, you get propped up because that’s…

Gina: Absolutely. 

Chris: Great advice. 

Chappell: …that’s the kind of thing when you show that foresight, it—it just—it just will amplify your—your career path so much. I’m not saying you have to like, learn everything. Know the whatever, call sign on the—the—the stock exchange of every company ever or something. But it is good to—to understand some of the business needs and it also will make you know what to do with your work if you’re ever trying to prioritize what you should be working on.

Gina: Absolutely. Yes. 

Chappell: But going back to what you said, Gina, the tech is still engineering led. It likely always will be. There is some—a little bit of friction between engineering led companies and strategy. Strategy is something that requires you to stop, sit, and take a minute, whereas engineering tends to be a, let’s get in, let’s roll up the sleeves, as you said, and go, go, go. I think both approaches can benefit from each other, and I actually think strategists and engineers can work really well together, we just don’t see it very often. But that’s why a lot of people don’t—A lot of companies do not take time to make these sorts of strategic visions together, is because it feels like it might be slowing momentum. Or it feels like it could be putting some parameters on the engineers when they really just want them to feel free to, you know, push this platform or product. But it’s still been my experience that every time you create one of these decks, people at least take a sentence away from it and think that’s my goal, and it helps them work better. That tends to be what I’ve seen. 

Gina: That alone makes it worth it. I mean, I think your advice about, particularly for people early in their career, really kind of under—you know, asking and understanding and researching, understanding what, you know, what is the vision, what is the goal is, is such good advice. On the other end of the spectrum, I mean, as a leader, if somebody asks me like, “what is—why are we doing this? What is the goal here? What is the mission here?” We—we go through just Postlight’s’, mission, values. We go through a—a—you know, a revision session every year or so. But when someone asks me that, I—in my mind, I just imagine getting a big red F as a leader. So I’m like, okay. If it’s not clear, then like we haven’t communicated enough. We—we—it’s either gathered dust on a shelf somewhere too long. We haven’t talked about it enough. We haven’t—we don’t have people actively aligning their day to day work with what we’re trying to do, that big question of what we’re trying to do. And it’s just a reminder like, “oh, you—this is, this is a living document. It’s something that you have to align against constantly when—when folks aren’t sure what the priorities are.” This is, this is how you prioritize what the vision is… 

Chris: That’s right. 

Gina: Where—where we’re going. You know, we’re on a trip, right? And you got the map and you got your destination. If you’re not clear on where the destination is, you’re gonna, you know, veer off in a fork and, and wind up, you know, in Florida instead of, I don’t know, North Carolina. 

Chappell: Wrong, wrong turn to Albuquerque . 

Chris: It’s—I think it is easy to forget that you need to, you need to re reemphasize and repeat this sometimes, because you know, you’re driving through Maryland and you’re like, oh, I’m just thinking about Maryland, and I’m thinking about, you know, where the rest stop is. It makes sense why you take your eye off the ultimate destination because you’re thinking about…

Chappell: Right. 

Chris: …something that is, you know, a much lower altitude. A much lower level. 

Gina: That’s right. 

Chappell: Well, sometimes you have to, to get your work done. Every day is hard and some days my job is like, “hey, I need to get this one deliverable to this person” and that has to be my job for that day. But then you have to be able to back out sometimes and look powers of 10 from way up high…. 

Chris: That’s right. 

Chappell: …. and say, “Why am I here?” Hopefully when you remember that it helps reconnect you and—and in some ways ground you to what you’re doing. At least hopefully. You know, this is the other thing is like these—these strategy kind of decks, these strategy visions, like they do need to be aspirational and hopeful. 

Chris: Mm-hmm. 

Chappell: But they also should be grounded in some human truths. That’s my opinion. Now everyone’s different and everyone has a different idea of what human truth is, but if you are, you know, making a deck about a hotel for dogs, you don’t need to position it as if it’s this thing that’s like curing all the world’s ills. But you can position it as a very basic human truth, which is that a lot of people really, really love their pets and they want to travel with them because they bring them sense of security and it’s a way to bring a sense of home with you. And so these—the people who need this, they need to find hotels that will allow this. So like just bringing in the human element actually makes you remember, “oh, this is why I do this thing. This is why people are gonna care.”

Chris: Yeah. 

Chappell: Not—not because “we’re changing the world.” You know? I think we’ve seen too much of that in tech when it’s like, “yeah, you’re an app that takes photos.” I mean, you know, like, let’s calm down. Let’s calm down. 

Chris: But you’re, but you’re also not saying, Chappell, the mission is also not, “we wanna make $50 million getting people to preserve hotels for their dogs.” I lo—I love the framing of there’s a human element to the mission. Like, what—what are you trying to—what difference are you trying to make in people’s lives? That’s what it really comes down to. Yes, we’re talking in the context of business and there are gonna be some indicators that direct how the business is performing, but the mission is about what do you wanna change? How do you wanna affect people’s lives? And I—I totally agree with you that it can’t be too, it can’t be too lofty so as to feel disconnected. But it does have to be aspirational and you know, something that you wanna strive for rather than just something that you know you can do falling outta bed in the morning. 

Chappell: Right. It is also very possible that you might need a strategy deck—this isn’t the first time you’re creating a product or platform. Sometimes you need to reposition something that isn’t working well. And I have been a part of several opportunities where I’ve gone into very big established companies where they have to get back in touch with what they are doing and why it matters. 

Chris: Yes. 

Chappell: And that’s actually harder in a lot of ways because you’re dealing with apathy. You’re dealing with just kind of frustration. It’s not the same kind of hopeful feeling that a startup might have when they’re just getting going. I would say one of the first strategy vision decks I wrote that I was really super proud of, was at a very important, very consequential internet company. It was many, many people involved and they needed to reposition one of their oldest core products. And that’s really difficult to do. And you know, we had 50 people in the room who all had their idea of what this core product should be and how it—it affects people. I would never recommend trying to co-write a strategy vision of 50 people. But to say that this—this is always difficult and it does play with emotion a lot because we’re all in such different places when we try to write visions. So that is to say, I just wanted to say like you might be writing a vision for a new thing that’s never existed. But you might also have the challenge of trying to remember and reposition a product so that you can bring it back to what it needs to be. You know, Twitter. You know, so it’s like how do we—how do we remember the thing that got us here when it feels like maybe decades have passed?

Chris: Right.

Chappell: And you’ve lost sight of what it was to be just five people in a one room office. 

Chris: Right. 

Chappell: You know? 

Chris: Right. Yeah. That’s a great point. 

Gina: Yeah. I wanna go back to something like that Chris said earlier. You said something about financial, like financial results. The difference between a product vision or a strategic vision and—and product results. Because I have been in rooms where it’s like, “okay, so our vision is that we’re gonna be a $5 billion company by 2027.” And it’s like, that’s not a vision, that is a financial goal, right? 

Chris: Mm-hmm. 

Gina: And I think that it’s very tempting to when you—particularly if you’re in a startup situation, and you’re going to VCs and investors, right? Whose goal is to get 10 x returns to say, our, our vision is that we’re gonna be a $5 billion company by, you know, 2027. And you know, investors are going to really relate to that, right? Cause they’re deciding whether or not to throw in their lot with you. But that is not a product vision. Like, that is not a strategic vision. Right? You are providing, you know, there—there’s a why, there’s a human story and the—the money, if you do—if you’re successful, that’s a byproduct of your success. In a situation where you’re in an established company that has had some success or is, you know, has a really mature product that’s been around for a really long time and you’re coming into a team that has just momentum and inertia and a lot established culture, and maybe there’s some apathy, maybe there’s some frustration, maybe they’re struggling, you know, it—it can—it can help to be like, look at our competitors and how they’re doing so much better than we are and look at our numbers heading south, and let’s talk about what we’re actually doing here because we’re not succeeding. And so I think that, you know, I think there’s a—the financial piece of it is an aspect, but it’s not the core. It’s not the core story for any That’s business strategy or product vision. It shouldn’t be. 

Chappell: Yeah. So in the—in the article, which will be linked in this episode where I lay out the outline of how to get started with a vision deck, I included only eight slides. And that’s just to get you started. You’ll see those eight slides. Do not say, “Tell investors how much money you’re gonna make.” 

Gina: That’s right.

Chappell: Out of all eight of those slides, it’s really about how to build your story and to address pain points and—and how to show off what this thing’s going to be. Now, if you are going to take this into investors, of course I’d recommend having a section at the end of that—that deck where you can get into some of the financial issues. You can show like, we’ve sized the market and here’s the opportunity, things like that. But your vision deck—that beginning, that narrative story should be something that exists for—for you and your—your staff and the people you wanna get excited. And then you can alter that—that vision deck for say, investors or for, say, the press, whoever you wanna alter it for. But the core of it should—should be for you. It’s the human story. It’s—it’s the thing that matters. 

Gina: Right. It’s the need that you’re fulfilling, right? And the business model is a separate conversation. It’s an important conversation because the world, cuz capitalism and the world runs on money, but it depends on your audience.

Chris: I wanna clarify or—or maybe slightly disagree. Because I do think, I mean Chappell, you frame it in the—in the in the steps as “show the market opportunity.” And you just briefly touched on it. And I do think that is very valuable. And I do think the financial metrics, it can be very motivating to people actually.

Chappell: Oh yeah. 

Chris: So it’s motivating to investors, sure. But it’s also motivated to senior stakeholders. It’s motivating to the team to—cuz it’s a very clear measure, right, of are you—how far away are you and are you performing or not? You can, it’s very black and white. You know, you can kind of see it. Do I think the financials should be the driver behind your product division? No, I don’t. I think, I think the driver should be a human one. But can the financials be an important component of it? And could it be one of the eight slides that is in this product division deck? Yeah, I think, and I think there’s a really compelling reason to include it because it’s very clear and it’s very, Motivating, I think, to various stakeholders at various levels.

Chappell: Right. I—I would think of it like just kind of like Lego blocks that you can take apart and put together. That’s what a vision deck should be. 

Chris: Yeah. 

Chappell: And the core that we have started with in this outline, it’s the storytelling. To me that’s like the core of the deck. But then you should attach onto that deck, the—the Lego bricks that make sense for you and what you’re trying to do. And that could absolutely be financial information. It could be operational information. It could be the relationships you already have and the references you already have. You know, there’s so many Lego blocks you can build onto this thing to kind of customize it and make it work for you. And you know, and that—and that’s—that’s the point of outlines like this. It’s honestly, as a—I started in writing and it’s that fear of the blank page sort of thing that we need to get over. And I’m a big fan of like templates and outlines because if I have something there, I know I can just get going. I can dump in some texts, even if it’s not perfect. And I think this is also a really good point to cover off on, is that, A lot of people think you must have an MBA to be able to write decks like this. And when I started in this industry, I started—long been a content strategist. I don’t have an MBA, I don’t have anything close to that. I’m like an art school kid. So I thought, who am I to write things like this? And then fortunately, I—I was on a project when I was working at another agency with a—a friend who has been through business school and she just sat me down. She was like, “you can do this. “You’re a great writer.”

Gina: Right. This is storytelling. 

Chappell: It’s just storytelling. She was like, “storytelling. Do little desk research. Bing, bang, boom.” And I was like, “really?” And she was like, “yes. Trust me. You will make a better deck than a lot of people who get MBAs.” I just trusted in her and, and let—put the imposter syndrome aside and I—and I worked with her and we wrote an excellent deck that made me think maybe I don’t need to go get an MBA, which is good. I do not need a degree. Another degree . So, you know, who knows? So yeah, I just, I wanna encourage people that like, I think it can be kind of scary. And I think you can be worried that you need to hire some like MBA to help you do this or that you need to take classes to do this. You don’t necessarily need to. It’s amazing how far you can go with just telling a good story. A story that honestly, you know, financials are a little bit different, but the story, anyone… 

Gina: With anyone.

Chappell: … it—it—should be able to read it or listen to you present this deck and tell you whether or not they thought it was interesting.

Chris: Mm-hmm. 

Gina: Right. Whether or not it resonated. It just has to be a compelling, complete story that’s accessible and people understand. Right. 

Chappell: Totally. 

Gina: This is a tool to get people to come, you know, do this with you. 

Chappell: This is correct, and like they should leave feeling, A, interested, and B, wanting to hear more. If they do, then your deck has been really successful. It—you don’t have to necessarily have all these accreditations behind your name. That is a say if you do have an MBA, I’m sure you have so many more tricks and tools than me and I am very jealous of that cuz I’ve—I’ve—I’ve seen my friends who do some of the, this work and I find them amazing. So not to diminish MBAs. But I would not let that scare you away from giving this a try. And this is also something that I think any product manager or product strategist should also just really make a tool in their tool belt is learning how to write a good strategy or vision deck. I mean, absolutely. 

Chris: Absolutely. 

Gina: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, as we, as we sort of pulled up from, you know, project management and product management into product strategy. Like this is, you know, being a strategic partner to our clients is this is—this is a incredibly important, important skill, right? You wanna start with the why, start with the vision. 

Chris: Yeah.

Gina: Before we wrap this up, the one thing that I wanted to ask is how—say you go—you go through this, you know how to write a compelling product vision. We’re gonna link this in the show notes. We’ve got the steps down. You go through this exercise, you have it. It’s good. You’re motivated by it. You feel that others are motivated by it. How do you prevent it from getting lost on a shared network drive somewhere never opened again and, you know, gathered and just fall out of alignment from what the reality of the day to day is. Like, how—how do you keep this actually a living document? How do you connect it to everyday work? And maybe this is, this is a very tactical question, but it’s something honestly that I think about a lot. How, how do we reconnect back to our North Star over and over? 

Chappell: The fact is not everyone’s going to download and open a deck. 

Gina: Correct.

Chappell: You know, employee number 137 is not gonna download and open a deck right about the vision of the company. That is why that kind of mission statement, that elevator pitch still matters. Because if nothing else, that can be a thing that is reiterated around the company over and over, that people can hear and remember as a touchstone. “Oh yeah. That’s what this company is about.” So that is why slogans happen. It’s why you know, you’re trying to keep people motivated when they aren’t necessarily seeing that source of truth. Again, that can feel hard. It can often feel disingenuous to just like, kind of—I don’t know. It reminds me of a scene from like The Office or something where you’re just like repeating a company phrase. But you know, I—I think if you do maintain it as some sort of evergreen document, I think it can be nice to have an owner over the document who gets to revisit it. Maybe revisit it, set a time you look at it six months later and say, did we grow? Did we achieve any of this? Is this something that still matters to us? You might have outgrown it. And that’s actually exciting and good.

Gina: It’s evolution. Yeah.

Chappell: It’s evolution. And then like you can look at it, work at and be like, how would we update this? Who are we now? And it can become a thing that’s more like, here’s our biannual kind of schedule to look back at what we started with and say like, is that still us?

Gina: Yeah. 

Chappell: And not—not make it something you need to update every week, every minute.

Gina: Right. 

Chappell: But just revisit it. 

Chris: I—I think this is exactly right. Setting a schedule makes so much sense.

Gina: And an owner.

Chris: Postlight—and an owner. If you’re going through like a quarterly planning session or a second half of the year planning session or something like that, just take—make the first session, right, the first hour, the review of the vision.

Gina: “Here’s our vision.” Mm-hmm. 

Chris: “Here’s our vision. Does it make sense?” And if yes, great. It will inform the discussions we’re about to have. If no, also great, let’s take this opportunity to revise it and figure out what our next phase is going to be like. And doing it in the—you know, with—with those regular planning sessions is just so helpful because it, it makes it explicit and ideally it is informing everything you are discussing for, you know, the next period of time that you’re—that you’re laying out for your team or your teams. So I love that idea. I would also, on a lower level, something to maybe consider is take bits of this vision and pepper it throughout the other things that you’re doing. 

Gina: Every deliverable. 

Chris: Exactly. 

Gina: Every milestone.

Chris: Every milestone.

Gina: Every deliverable. 

Chris: If you—if you have a, if you’re on a team that does regular demos. Like monthly demos or every sprint demo, take—you don’t have to do it, you know, you don’t have to have like a “here’s my 90 minute walkthrough of the vision,” but the 32nd recap. Or—or maybe it’s a couple of slides. Maybe you take the vision deck and you say as a reminder, like, “here’s—here’s why we’re doing this and here’s where we’re positioned.” Right? 

Gina: Yes. 

Chris: “We heard—we heard from our users, or we did an audience assessment and here’s where we think we’re focusing. And so the thing we’re about to demo for you addresses it directly addresses this pain point directly or addresses this market opportunity directly.” Those things can be such helpful framing for the lower level. It’s this—you know, go back to the roadmap analogy and it’s like, “yes, you could be driving through Maryland, but if you take the first, you know, the first little bit and say, as a reminder, we’re going to Miami and here’s why.” Like, that’s very helpful when you’re giving your—your update about your—your current status. So I love the idea of the, of the regular schedule. And then I would say, you know, pepper it into the—to the milestones that you have. 

Chappell: Yeah. And, and you know, listen, I would say listen to each other and how you’re talking about your own company and—and how that—how that affects things. And maybe you hear something that makes your vision even stronger. I mean, cuz like when I—I—I—Postlight has a long mission, like, statement or long longish, like a little paragraph or something. But when people ask me what sets Postlight apart from, like, other agencies, I’m like, oh cuz we actually get good software.

Gina: Right.

Chris: Yes. 

Chappell: And that’s because I can say that personally because I’ve been at a lot of agencies and a lot of agencies, they don’t get stuff built. They just don’t. And so that for me becomes like a personal vision mission statement of why I’m here and what makes Postlight make sense to me. And maybe other people share that. And that becomes part of your vision statement, right? 

Gina: Yes.

Chris: Love that.

Chappell: Always listening and refining. It’s fun. It should feel collaborative and it shouldn’t feel like it’s so set in stone that you can’t grow. That’s the point of these things is it’s—it’s—it’s a guide. It’s setting guideposts and you know, you might get there or you might find some other really cool path. 

Gina: It’s true, it’s true. And I—and I love that point. Listening to everyone’s different—everyone’s talk track about what it is that we’re doing here. It to me, I—it’s so—I—I like—I love hearing you say that, and that should be part of a mission, even if it’s not. But like that makes a lot of sense. Like that makes it richer and better and stronger. And then there are times when you hear something, you go, “is that what we’re doing? I didn’t think that’s what we were doing.” And that’s an opportunity to align. So… 

Chappell: A hotel for dogs. 

Gina: A hotel for dogs. Get yourself a hotel for your dog. [laughs] We do welcome dogs in the office. For what it’s worth. 

Chris: For what it’s worth. This was wonderful Chappell. Thank you for doing this. Thank you for publishing the piece. We will link it in the show notes. If you want the step by step, you know how to guide or how to template to start your product vision. You don’t have to look at a blank page. You can look at Chappell’s article, “how to write a Compelling Product Vision,” and it’s right there laid out for you and we would encourage you all to do it. If you decide you need some help, we would love to help you. Reach out to hello@postlight.com and we will go through this exercise with you. We have an amazing digital strategy team coupled with product managers, product designers, and engineers who would be happy to do this exercise with you. We love hearing about business problems. We love thinking about big strategic goals, and we would love to help you put this down on paper. So that’s us. And maybe one more thing I’ll say about Postlight. You know, we were acquired earlier this year by NTT Data, and we’ve been exploring the other capabilities that we now have access to in NTT data as well. So if you are struggling with a big service now installation or you’ve got a maintenance challenge with your legacy platforms, We’ve got a bunch of new capabilities that we are really excited about as well. So problems large and small, we would love to hear about them at hello@postlight.com. I think that’s it for us. Thank you Chappell. 

Gina: Thank you Chappell. This was so fun. 

Chappell: Always a pleasure. 

Chris: And we will talk to you all soon. 

Gina: Bye. 

Chris: Bye.

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