Setting a Product Vision

Rishabh Mishra
4 min readDec 9, 2021


Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, said, “Be stubborn on vision, flexible on details.” The vision should continue over a very long period of time, potentially years. The best product visions are timeless and disconnected from the technology they are built on. In a startup, the vision is usually championed by a founder or an early-stage CEO. Their responsibility is to remind the organization’s people-throughout all the product decisions and product roadmap discussions-of that vision. “When I joined the company in 1992, we used to talk about our mission as putting a PC in every home, and by the end of the decade we had done that, at least in the developed world,” says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “It always bothered me that we confused an enduring mission with a temporal goal.” Disconnecting from time and trends is essential to creating a long-term vision-because, ultimately, achieving the objectives determined by a clear view of the future makes for a better product.

The company vision is unlikely to change much. Pivoting a company or product doesn’t necessarily mean changing the vision. If described correctly, a vision will be timeless and not connected to technology or trends. Disney’s vision to “Make People Happy” doesn’t need to explain how that gets done. A vision should be able to stand the test of time while also being translated into near-term goals, objectives and key results (OKRs), or roadmaps. The OKRs and roadmaps can change; in fact, they should change as new information is received from the market and from customers. This adaptation of the near-term goals shouldn’t have any effect on a well-constructed and timeless vision.

“One thing I’ve seen for myself and for others in the past, is having a tough time showing the roadmap knowing it’s going to change,” says Rose Grabowski, previously Director of Product Management at Invaluable and now Senior Product Manager at GrubHub. “It’s always going to change ‘tomorrow.’ Even when you get to tomorrow, it’s going to change the next day too. Maybe not literally tomorrow, but you know you’re always learning and thinking about course correction.” Grabowski describes a familiar environment for all product people: working in an ambiguous world of shifting deadlines and fresh problems to solve: “It’s tough to say, ‘We’re going to show something and we’re going to couch it with all sorts of notes on this being a living document. Things always change. These aren’t committed dates.’ That kind of thing.” Grabowski has homed in on the counter intuitive nature of the product leader’s job-having a clear long-term vision while simultaneously living in a shifting short-term world of tasks and deliverable.

An additional challenge is that once a team sees the vision and the roadmap, they get attached to the outcomes. “[People] hope that nothing will change, or at least the thing that they don’t want to change, doesn’t change, “ . Aligning a vision and managing the daily activities to get there means regularly sharing that vision while at the same time reminding your team that the details of you get there will change. That change is guaranteed, so it’s important to have the conversation and just accept that nothing is perfect.

The product leader assumes the same responsibility and champions the vision at each step of the product creation process. The product leader always needs to be asking, how does the big problem we’re solving relate to the ultimate vision? Will the product live up to the vision? How is the vision being communicated? How often will this vision be communicated or presented? Who is responsible for the vision communications?

Regardless of what the vision is, it is essential to have an advocate constantly reminding people about it; in some of the companies we interviewed, company vision is woven into weekly meetings and into almost all all-hands meetings.

This advocate can and should be the executive team and the product team, but in some cases can also include an external advocacy group. Titleist, the manufacturer of premium golfing products, has a group of customers that are part of the company’s inner circle. They are included in conversations about new products and innovative ideas. During a recent web and mobile project, these customers got to see early-stage designs so they could provide constructive feedback and direction. The customers are explicitly asked if these new digital products will be consistent with Titleist’s stated vision “to serve the needs of the serious and recreational golfer with value added products and services that have a competitive advantage worldwide.”

Ultimately, where the vision comes from is less important than ensuring that it is the correct one. As product management Guru Rich Mironov says, “It’s not important to me who has the good idea, but it is my job to make sure it’s the best one, that it’s still validated, and that we have people who are going to pay for it.

The process has to continually validate the vision. If we do that, I don’t care whose vision it is.”

Reference: My favorite book PRODUCT LEADERSHIP BY Richard Banfield, Martin Eriksson & Nate Walkingshaw.

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Rishabh Mishra

Storyteller | Aspiring Poet | Product management Enthusiast | Technology lover