This morning I got into conversation at the coffee shop with a guy who is having difficulty bringing a new startup venture to market. He explained that they have 5 great guys on the project and have sold the concept to a major investor, with a committed customer due to have the product/service delivered in 3 months.
Sounds like a great opportunity, however it seems that all in the garden is not rosy. There is unrest in the group and lack of activity towards the commitment goal - if they fail to deliver it could put the whole concept at risk.
I asked if they had a common vision of what they were trying to achieve? The response was "I think so" - my comment was "not good enough!"
One of the things I learnt working with start-ups and major programmes in business is that unless there is total clarity on the 'perfect future' then there is a high chance of failure. Each of us interprets the desired outcome differently and is working to their version, whilst someone else may have a completely different idea of what success would be like.
I remember working with a large white goods manufacturer on a project that aimed at producing a cooker that was also a fridge or a fridge that could also cook. We had 20 people working on the project and it had, they thought clear goals and objectives. The problem was that every person on the team had a different vision of what this thing could do and what it would look like.
Some thought is was a small device like a microwave, others it would be a compartment in the fridge and yet others saw it as a separate insulated cavity in the cooker. I thought that this would have been the first thing that would have been decided, in fact all that had been defined what the cooking fridge concept.
To focus ideas we ended up making the thing out of cardboard boxes and after a couple of iterations there was agreement and the whole mood changed - suddenly we were all taking about the same thing and how it could be improved - we had created our perfect future. Photos were sent off to manufacturing and within an hour then device was being prototyped.
From this I realised that we assume everyone sees the world as we do and therefore has the same ideas and vision of what things should be liked the reality was that there were 20 perfect futures and it wasn't until we made it real that these ideas converged.
I have used this example many times with teams to great effect and this morning I recounted it again. The five people on the team probably had very different views of what 'good' would look like and what would be delivered. I suggested writing a short story of the day of delivery or a picture montage - anything that would paint a picture of the perfect future. By doing this the teem would be galvanised to working to a common goal rather than their own idea of success.
It will be interesting if the idea is taken up and if it helps the project - I really hope it does and will report any feedback I get on the blog.
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