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.

Creating an iPhone Application and Project Management

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Before you begin designing and creating the next greatest iPhone application, it’s critical to define exactly what you plan your application to do, so says the iPhone Human Interface Guidelines.  A great way to do this is to write a product definition statement.  It is a succinct affirmation of your application’s core purpose and its intended audience.  I believe Apple understands, in order to be successful, you have to have a plan.  Developers of iPhone applications are not necessarily project managers.  Perhaps Apple is giving them better odds of success, by encouraging them to write a project definition statement.  I once worked with a very knowledgeable developer, Kent Lynch, who spoke out during a managers meeting saying, “People don’t plan to fail; they just fail to plan”.  He could not have been more right.

A project mission statement is no different.  No project should be attempted without first capturing a mission statement.  Traditionally, mission statements contain:

  • Project Name
  • Description
  • Purpose
  • Primary stakeholders
  • Responsibilities towards these stakeholders
  • Products and services offered

If you can articulate a mission statement that satisfies these few bullets, you’re on you way to understanding what you need to do to have a successful project.

(Image by jaapoost on flickr)