Creating a solid engineering vision is essential to building a high-purpose environment. A well-defined vision acts as a guiding star for your team and ensures that everyone is working towards the same goal.
Having a clear, motivating, inspiring, and achievable vision is one of the crucial pillars of distributed decision-making and leadership. Only when people understand the bigger goal can they get creative about achieving it.
The critical question, however, is how to create such a vision. I will answer this question in this article, part three of my series, about high-purpose environments.
7 Steps for a Compelling Engineering Vision
Here are seven critical steps to craft a compelling engineering vision:
1. Align with the company vision
Your engineering vision should be aligned with the overall company vision, as it needs to contribute to the broader goals and objectives of the organization. Start by understanding the company’s vision, mission, and values and identify how the engineering team can contribute to realizing that vision.
For small companies, there might be no need for a dedicated engineering vision. Suppose your organization is just a handful of people who work cross-functional, and the company vision is clear, applicable, and inspiring enough for engineers. In that case, you might better discuss how your team can impact the company vision.
2. Focus on impact
People want to feel like their work is valuable and impactful. Most people in high-paid disciplines like software engineering are not working for the money alone.
A good engineering vision should emphasize the impact the team aims to have on the organization, its customers, and the industry. Consider how your engineering efforts can create value, solve problems, and drive innovation. This impact-driven approach will inspire your team and give them a sense of purpose.
3. Involve your team
Your engineering vision should resonate with every member of the team. Involving your team in the creation process ensures the vision is rooted in their expertise, experience, and aspirations. This collaborative approach will lead to greater buy-in and commitment from your team members.
In practice, this can mean that you, as a leader, create a vision statement that sets the direction you want to go. Then you discuss this statement with various people in your engineering organization, collect their questions and feedback and iterate on it.
Then, you repeat this process with other people in your team. This ensures that people contribute to the vision while you, as engineering team leader, set the initial direction. You also get a good feeling about how the vision resonates with the team and if it could serve as a guide. Once you are sufficiently happy with the vision statement, communicate it via various channels and as much as possible. Ideally, you reflect with teams on the vision and let them figure out what it means for them.
4. Keep it simple and clear
A compelling engineering vision should be concise, clear, and easy to understand. Avoid using jargon or complex language that may create confusion or misunderstanding. All team members should understand the vision and be able to communicate it, regardless of their role or technical expertise.
5. Make it aspirational yet achievable
Your engineering vision should strike a balance between being aspirational and achievable. While it is important to set ambitious goals that challenge and inspire your team, the vision should also be grounded in reality and achievable within a reasonable time frame.
If the vision is too big, people won’t be able to connect the current reality with that grand vision. If it is too small and close to the status quo, people won’t feel motivated to take action.
6. Communicate and reinforce the vision
Once you have crafted your engineering vision, it is essential to communicate it effectively to your team and the broader organization. Ensure the vision is prominently displayed in your workspace and regularly referenced in team meetings and discussions. Reinforce the vision through your actions and decisions. Demonstrate your commitment to achieving it.
In bigger organizations, having a couple of people on the engineering team who completely buy the vision and act as ambassadors for it with their peers can be very helpful for the vision to stay present and influence day-to-day work.
7. Review and revise
As your organization grows and evolves, reviewing and revising your engineering vision is essential to ensure it remains relevant and aligned with the company’s broader goals. Regularly revisiting your vision allows you to adapt to changing circumstances, new technologies, and emerging opportunities.
It is important to note that even though a vision can be changed, it shouldn’t be changed too often. If you find yourself changing the vision every quarter, it is probably too small. Having a vision with a 1-2 year time horizon for smaller and 3-4 years for bigger companies seems like a good start. Otherwise, you might be too busy figuring out the right vision or communicating changes to the team.
This was part three of the high-purpose environments series.
- In part four, we will cover the “Importance of Values and Guiding Principles for Distributed Decision Making“.
- The topic “Engineering Excellence through Mission-Driven Teams” will be covered in part five.
- The sixth and final part will be about “Engineering Strategy: Actionable and Specific Guidance for Growing Engineering Teams”.
A compelling engineering vision is a crucial component of a high-purpose environment. It provides direction, fosters a sense of unity, and inspires your team to strive for excellence. By following the steps outlined above, you can craft a powerful engineering vision that aligns with your organization’s goals and drives your team toward success.
Want help creating and communicating your engineering vision? Schedule a free call with me, and we discuss how I can help you.