Reading Time: 3 minutes

As I settle into 2022, I am reminded of how hard it is to accomplish something new without a strategy that works. And as important as good leadership is, leadership without any project competencies is unnecessarily hard. So, I plan to spend a bit more time this year writing about how to manage projects. And I begin with the project vision statement.

For new readers, I will tell you up front that I’m a firm believer in keeping your project planning simple. That doesn’t mean ineffective. It means that I don’t spend much time on earned value management, complex critical path diagrams, or creating dependencies that don’t really exist.

Back to the project vision statement. As I have said before, time spent creating a compelling project vision statement is one of the best uses of your time in the early days of planning. Any project that lasts more than a month or two will get old after a while. Even lovers of project management know that. People get tired of the same thing every day. And the new and glamorous tries to creep into your life. So how do you create a project vision statement?

Three Ways to Create Your Project Vision Statement in 2022! #projectmanagement #teams #leadership #smartprojex Share on X

1. Embrace the phrase “so that.”

One rather easy approach is to embrace a technique used in creating user stories. User stories evolved in the Agile community and have been around for about the last twenty years. They are often used to document scope on technology projects – by creating a user story for every feature that you plan to build. In short, they follow this pattern.

As a __(role – the who)______, I need a _____(deliverable – the what)_____, so that _____(benefit – the why)_____.

What I like about this, as it applies to a project vision statement, is the use of the phrase “so that.” Consider these examples:

  • We are building a new website for XYZ, Inc. so that its users have a better experience.
  • Our start up is developing an open-source COVID vaccine to save lives.
  • Our company is creating a newly designed shopping cart for small grocery stores so that stores can shrink aisle dimensions and display more products.
  • We are moving our offices to a new location so that employees will have more parking.

2. Tell a short story

Storytelling has always been an effective way of aligning teams behind a goal. If you think you can’t tell a short story about your project, remember Hemmingway’s short story: “For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” I understand that few of us, including me, are in a league with Hemmingway, but we can all try a little harder.

All good stories involve conflict and characters. What is the problem you are solving or the need you are addressing? Who will benefit? Make your characters real. Perhaps you can include the benefits that the project is expected to achieve as the resolution to your story. Does it help to think about your beginning, middle, and end?

Storytelling has always been an effective way of aligning teams behind a goal. How do you create stories around your projects? #projectmanagement #teams #leadership #smartprojex Share on X

3. Focus on benefits realization management

When companies evaluate new project proposals, they identify the benefits that each project is expected to achieve and select the projects that will produce the greatest benefit for the organization. So, when you turn a project over to the team, did you tell the team what those benefits were?

You can incorporate those benefits into whatever pithy vision statement you create. The difference between this approach and embracing the “so that” approach is in the metrics for the benefit to be received. In the benefits approach, you are more focused on longer term benefits rather than the short-term improvements that you can see in the examples that I outlined above.

Using the benefits approach, a vision statement might read: we are moving the ABC store location to increase sales by a minimum of 10%. Or for something more comparable: we are creating a newly designed shopping cart for company XYZ, so that it can increase product shelf space by 25%.

Your project vision statement should be short, so that everyone can remember it. Don’t assume they will. Refresh their memory at every opportunity. Quiz people. It’s better for you to find out that Joe can’t recall why he is working a project than for Joe to be caught off-guard when he steps into the elevator and the CEO asks him what he is doing these days.

If you found this blog helpful, sign up for announcements on a big project that I’m working on.