A lot of time, I see engineers promising to boil the Pacific Ocean while climbing Kilimanjaro. I love optimistic engineers however there are also physical limits to what is possible. Another common refrain is “I worked so hard on x but I don’t know what happened”. Whenever I poke deeper, it’s nearly always a case of focusing on actions over results.
I used to try to craft perfect software in the past; this desire fueled my intense focus on irrelevant minutiae. Rather than focus on getting customer feedback, I would agonize over getting 100% code coverage (actions). Had I switched to iterative value improvements (results), I probably would have learnt faster and made customers happier.
I like to phrase discussions around desired results instead of actions. Clarity about results helps in focusing on actions with the biggest impact. We can choose to ignore any unnecessary detours and tackle the biggest win. Sometimes, the simplest solution might be cutting the Gordian knot! Problem eliminated in one swoop!!
Are you working on the right problems? If no, then focus all your energies on identifying the right problem with the biggest impact.
Assuming you have the right problem identified, what results are you aiming for and when? Identifying this north star is critical to steering the ship on the journey.
Finally, evaluate your daily actions; are they getting you closer to the goal? Or do you need to deprioritize other tasks for the goals? An engineer was passionate about an activity and would subconsciously allocate a lot of time to that. However, doing more of that activity meant starving other equally important high priority tasks. If you are a team lead, is your team working on the biggest challenge?
A relentless focus on results and delivering value should drive your work and task prioritization. Anything that distracts from this hinders the successful execution of projects.
Here are three steps:
- Identify the most important challenge to solve
- Define clear success metrics and timelines
- Evaluate actions every day to catch deviations early: alignment to success metrics is key
Are you concentrating efforts on the most important challenges?