From Vision to Product Mission

The mission, specifically the product mission, follows the company vision and describes how the product shall support or even enable achieving that vision. Specifically when we Focus on B2B, then other departments will be essential as well, including Sales, Marketing, Consulting, and Customer Success — but we will focus in the following on the Product Management aspects.

What is a Product Mission?

A product’s mission is a clear, concise statement that explains the product’s highest-level purpose. It clarifies who the product serves and what it does for them. It also identifies what makes the product unique and answers the question: What difference do you hope your product will make in the world?

In a bit more detail:
  • The product mission explains how the product will serve the company vision, so summarize what kind of product offering we are planning toward our purpose. As such, the product vision is a description of an intended future state, typically 3-5 years into the future — sometimes shorter, sometimes longer.
  • As explained, Purpose & Vision shall focus on the outside world. Now at the product mission level, we start to talk about the company and its services.
  • While Purpose & Vision usually remain very stable even long term, the product mission might change mid-term when a company achieves certain major milestones or extends its portfolio to support its purpose with more products.
  • The product mission highlights some key aspects of the product, tells how it stands out from the competition, and why customers will see a high value.
  • Optionally, the product mission can include a specific customer segment, a target group, an industry vertical, or a specific region — if that is what makes the product unique.
  • The product mission shall be aspirational and inspiring and provide high-level guard rails but no features or detailed actions.
The difference between vision and mission can nicely be illustrated by this example describing IKEA:

To create a better everyday life for the many people.

Offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.

The vision, already shared in the chapter on Purpose & Vision, clearly is broad, ambitious, and maybe even a bit too vague to immediately identify the IKEA brand. Contrary to that, the mission depicts a specific business activity that immediately points to IKEA. The same can be observed very well for Tesla:

To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.

We’re building a world powered by solar energy, running on batteries and transported by electric vehicles.

The product mission is not the product strategy; it is not a plan for execution but rather focuses entirely on the goal while leaving the path toward that goal open.

Supporting the Company’s Purpose & Vision

The objective of the product mission is to describe how the product will help implement the company’s Purpose & Vision. It does not yet state how to get there — that will be addressed by way of the product strategy.

From Vision to Mission
From Vision to Mission
Most notably this implies that:
  • We do not cover here services or consulting companies — which might not even build a product at all and, hence, also not need a product vision.
  • We totally accept that other business functions are important, too, for the company’s success, such as HR (for winning talent), Marketing, Customer Success, Sales, and Consulting.
In other words, while the company is aiming for long-term business outcomes, the product vision should address related product outcomes. For example:
  • A simple business objective to grow in revenue will not be sufficient to derive product outcomes because it doesn’t state whether the growth should come from more customers, bigger deal sizes, better retention, entries in new markets, completely new products etc.
  • From a business objective to expand into new markets or geographies, a number of product-related objectives can typically be derived, such as on internationalization — but it’s also clear that other teams need to contribute as well: say Marketing or Consulting.
  • If the business objective is to enter new verticals, then likewise the product most likely will have to provide additional functionality relevant to these verticals.
Ideally, both, business outcomes and product outcomes, inspire each other and are aligned by way of an open discussion among executive management — for which the product leader is responsible.

7 Rules for Creating an Effective Product Mission

The following tips might help in creating a product mission:

  1. Keep it crisp — just a few sentences, not pages.
  2. Explicitly name the rationale for the product’s existence.
  3. Clarify the target users and the key value they receive from the product.
  4. Mention company-specific aspects but focus on the customer.
  5. Describe what makes the product unique without listing features.
  6. Make the mission memorable and repeat, repeat, repeat.
  7. Get feedback from the team, revise, and tighten.

The Product Vision Board

The product vision board is a tool developed (and provided for download) by Roman Pichler that

...helps you describe, visualise, and validate your product vision and strategy. It captures the target group, user needs, key product features, and business goals.

While there is also an extended version, the basic board looks like this:

Product Vision Board
Product Vision Board
As displayed, the key idea is to collect the most important aspects of a new product idea and structure them in a short and concise way along the different dimensions. Compared to, for example, a value proposition canvas (see this highly recommended book), the board contains fewer details about the actual user personas, about jobs-to-be-done, and about the pains and gains related to the whole user journey.   To learn more, check out the following video on YouTube to learn about how to use the product vision board:

Radical Product Vision Statement

Sometimes product vision statements are more like marketing-style tag lines: easy-to-remember one-liners which, however, often aren’t sufficient to really align a team towards a common north star. Radhika Dutt, in her book  Radical Product Thinking, suggests a so-called mad-lib format to provide a bit more detail:

Today, when [identified group] want to [desirable activity/ outcome], they have to [current solution]. This is unacceptable, because [shortcomings of current solutions]. We envision a world where [shortcomings resolved]. We are bringing this world about through [basic technology / approach].

Obviously, when writing a product vision in this format, it is no longer immediately memorable. Instead, the focus is on providing enough clarity such that all members of the team are aligned — even if they express it in their own words rather than literally. The radical product vision statement includes

  • a specific target group
  • how their world looks like today and what they are struggling with
  • a reason why this is unacceptable
  • a statement as to when the vision will be achieved — when referring to a future success state here, not a specific point in time
  • an answer on the fundamental approach, or technology, that will enable this change.

Further Reading

Radical Product Vision Statement

How to create a compelling vision to guide you and your team

Your business strategy and your product strategy should all be aligned to your Vision — which is why it’s worth spending some time getting it right from the very beginning.

Radhika Dutt | Medium
Product Vision Board

The Product Vision Board

Learn to work with the tool.

What is Product Vision?

A clear product vision helps making decisions so your product ends up where you want it to be.

Maarten Dalmijn | Product Coalition