Agile Leaders Think Like Entrepreneurs

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I found a half written blog post that I never published.  Honestly, I did not know if I wrote it myself or if I was intending to quote someone.  Because I don’t like to take credit for other people’s work, I began a search.  After about 10 minutes, I found it.  Entrepreneur Jason Calacanis wrote the quote below, back in May of 2010. Rather than keep it hidden in the lost-and-found of my blog, I thought it was worth publishing.

Step 1: Find a need, trend and/or pain point…
Step 2: Discuss possible solutions and products to address #1.
Step 3: Prototype the solution in step two and share…
Step 4: Discuss the possibility of scaling the prototype with the smartest folks in that vertical.
Step 5: Find a team to manage the growth of this product and give it the support of a couple of partners…
Step 6: Debate, iterate, engage, recruit, inspire, pivot and communicate…

My Scrum TeamThough I trimmed a few words for brevity, what I like about these 6 steps is you can take them out of context and the formula still works.  Jason was writing about how to be an angel investor & business creator.  I am writing about how to be a Product Owner or Agile Team Lead.

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Building on failure and action versus motion

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I just listened to the 37signals podcast.  It was a playback of some of the brainstorming sessions leading up to the release of the book REWORK.  For those who don’t know me, I’m a complete 37signals fanboy.  They just “get it”.  I don’t know if it’s their no BS approach to business or that they have great products.  But, I’ve found many of the things they created, do, and say helpful in multiple areas.  It doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur or a project manager.  They have something for everyone.

There were two things from the book I wanted to note today.  First, they talked about building on failure versus building on success.  My takeaway is if you want to reach a goal (insert your project or product here), it is easier for you to build upon small successes than to fail and start over. Example: When you’re [creating] an [product] for a customer, wouldn’t you rather deliver small chucks and get acceptance from the customer along the way, rather than offer a big reveal at the end and risk delivering something they don’t want?  If you fail, you have to start all over.  Out of a million possibilities, you’ve narrowed it down by ONE.  I agree with the PDCA approach (Deming cycle). You should refine, deliver, refine, deliver.  Don’t forget to deliver.  If you get something 99% done, you still have nothing.  Deliver something (regardless how small), get acceptance, and repeat.

The Second thing I wanted to note from the podcast was the mention of an Ernest Hemingway quote

Never mistake motion for action

Things don’t have to be hard.  If your business [process] requires you to do wasteful (time or money) things, don’t do them!  You should be doing things because they provide value (save time/money or make money).  The rest is just fat and you need to trim the fat from every business [process].  Make your [processes or products] as lean as you can without hitting the bone.  Only then can you have a good baseline.  Only then can you build on top of something.  Anything beyond that and you may be wasting time and money compensating.

Do something because you need to do it.  Don’t do it because you feel obligated.  Do you need to go to that next meeting because there is valuable information being communicated?  Or rather, if you don’t go it will give the impression that you’re being antisocial?  Meetings are perfect examples of an crime perpetrated by people that don’t have enough actual work to do or those to feel obligated by people that don’t have enough real work to do.

You know why I don’t check my email every 5 minutes?  Because I have things I need to get done for the customer!  Sending me pictures of LOLcats is not going to help me get that work done.  Equally, expecting me to respond to that email within an hour of you sending it just reinforces the fact that you have more time on your hands than me.

Image courtesy Flikr: Travis S.