Navel gazing is underrated, in my opinion.
Merriam Webster defines it as “useless or excessive self-contemplation”.
Useless? Excessive? Are you kidding me? Navel gazing is where magic begins. It is the calisthenics of the imagination that solve problems and realize opportunities. Without this introspection, there would be no epiphanies; no lightbulbs; no Ah-Has. Navel gazing is the fuse that ignites the projects that bring about change. Without it, we would cease to move forward.
In the IT world, Navel gazing often goes by another name: envisioning; and the articulated result is known as the business vision or vision statement. The business vision guides everything that occurs in the projects that will enable its realization, from their inception to closeout. Given the significance of the business vision, it is vital that nothing gets lost in translation between the visionary (often the sponsor) and the project team—otherwise there is risk that project deliverables will not align with the vision. The vision must be understood by the project manager and the project team as it answers the question, “What’s our mandate, and why is it significant?”
Here are some basic guidelines for communicating/understanding business vision. If you are a visionary, use these guidelines to communicate your vision to your project manager; if you are a PM, use them when meeting with your sponsor for the first time to ensure a continued, solid understanding of the business vision by the project team.
1. Keep it simple. It is the nature of many visionaries to wax poetic. Don’t. The business vision should describe what success looks like in a sentence or three. Boeing’s vision for the 777 was: “Denver to Honolulu on a hot day.” To outsiders, these seven words are puzzling; but, to the project team, it was an obvious and continuous reminder of what they were brought in to do: Deliver an airplane with high-altitude capacity (“Denver”) and extended operations (“Honolulu”) to be ready by summer (“hot day”).
2. State the benefits. The project team must understand what the endgame is in order to make informed decisions along the way. Answer the question, “Why is this significant?”
3. Hook the team. The vision should draw in those on the receiving end, compelling them to ask questions about it. The Boeing example above works well because it causes us to ask, “What does this mean? Tell me more.”
4. Make it measurable. Beyond describing what success looks like, the vision should also describe how we will know when we have achieved it. What are the key performance indicators that will be used to measure benefit realization? What are the thresholds that determine the extent to which success has been achieved?
5. Use active verbs. Using active verbs (develop, assemble, import, etc.) will bring the vision to life, making it engaging to the project team—which is, after all, the point of communicating the vision.