Use “Remember the Future” to Build a Shared Vision with Your Software Team

“Remember the Future” is one of my favorite design thinking exercises. Kim does a great job explaining it here if you’d like more detail. But the essence of the activity is to put yourself into the future and think back to what successes or positive things may have happened in the “past.” Thus, you’re remembering what is going to happen in the future.

An Exercise to Build a Shared Vision

Recently, I helped to onboard two new makers to my team. The project is particularly loosely defined. A successful outcome for us or our client has been difficult to define. We’re trying to help a client going through an acquisition, with four different companies involved in defining a new product.

Because of this, when it came time to bring on some new makers to our team, I found myself without a clear achievable single directive I could articulate as the goal of the project. That’s not unusual for projects at Atomic. Often the priorities of the project shift over time as we learn more, and we work with clients to iterate on what we’re building.

When my new team members joined our project, I got a lot of questions about what we were doing here and what we were trying to build. I was having a hard time helping people build a shared vision about what we were working toward.

Using “Remember the Future” to Define Success

After some brainstorming with some of my senior colleagues, we decided to hold an internal “Remember the Future,” not for a product launch or another product milestone, but instead for the whole project. We focused on one month and three months from now. We gave everyone a chance to write down wins they “had” during those time periods.

Here are some examples:

  • 1 month from now: We defined the scope for MVP launch.
  • 1 month from now: We set up a codebase, with CI and hosting.
  • 3 months from now: The client team we’re collaborating with is now more familiar with agile project management
  • 3 months from now: Product development is underway, and the MVP launch date is predictable based on known velocity and a burn-up chart.
  • 1 month: Now that we’re using story estimation, we have a better idea of how long stories will take.
  • 3 months from now: We have a containerized local development environment, so now it’s easy to onboard new developers and grow the team.

“Remember the Future” for Tracking Progress

This exercise helped us define success for ourselves and take a broad approach to how we can help our clients. I found that after this exercise I could refer back to this list so that I could track our progress towards these self-defined goals.