If the first post in this series
, I talked about how the main obstacle to high performance, for many people, is not the lack of a list, but instead the lack of actual forward motion. Furthermore, that, in too many cases, the list is another form of procrastination. (Or, as Merlin Mann
might put it "the fat dude eating potato chips in the couch doesn't need more tips in runner's world. He needs to get out there and RUN!")
In the second
, I pointed out that if you are getting stuff done, if you are past the 90% of everything is showing up phase, then yes, some of those tools can 'grease the wheels' to help you get more done, and I listed a few of them.
Today I'll list why that might to totally terrible advice.
Don't get me wrong. It might
be good advice. It might work for you. Why, it might work for you -- you might get that 5, 10, or even 20% increase in productivity -- yet it might still be bad advice.
Because instead of gaining a twenty-percent improvement, you might just be able to give fifty, a hundred, or two hundred.
"Doing it right" might just be stopping you from breaking through
Breaking Through: An Example
Let's just say, for example, that you want to raise seed funding for a new business. You have a business plan, a proposal, a powerpoint slide deck, an elevator pitch, a presentation ... everything but an investor.
Then you hear from the investor. He tells you "c'mon up" to Portland, Oregon
, to submit your presentation, and you decide to take a road trip from your home in Ocean City, Maryland
Now you could try to optimize your trip -- you could use Google Maps to plan the best possible route, compare it against the results from mapquest, use weather.com to look at how the weather will be for each day of your trip in the regions you will be travelling, strategically plan your bathroom and gasoline stops, maybe even get three buddies to rotate drivers so you can sleep ...
You could spend hours, even days, planning this trip.
you could just get round-trip airfare from the Salisbury Airport
Going by plane instead of by car; that's a breakthrough.
Likewise, you could get an American Express Delta Card to get your barrage free, and collect points, and use Kayak.com to compare airfare, and find the cheapest, best possible flight, hotel room, and car service to/from the airport.
You could spend hours planning your trip.
you could talk to the investor and realize that he'd be comfortable with you e-mailing the materials and talking on the phone.
instead of spending a thousand dollars and two days of your life might just be a breakthrough
Yes, my examples are a bit contrived, but you get the point. Or, if you want a solid business case study, consider the Innovator's Dilemma
, and the classic example of the micro-computer manufacturers that totally missed the boat on the personal computer revolution.
Why did they miss the boat? They were so busy optimizing for minor productivity improvement that they missed the breakthrough.
Or consider the big-box book chains, and how they missed the online sales model.
Or consider ...
The list goes on.
The Bottom Line
If you find yourself scrimping and scraping for a few extra percentage points in improvement, you might be better off to start seeking an entirely different paradigm.
When I was in 3rd Grade (might have been 4th), my textbook had this funny picture in it, along with this quote -- it was more like a poem them words, really. For years, I have been trying to remember it, googling different things. For a long time, I suspected it might be Rudyard Kipling's "if
", which is close -- I think "if" might have been in the same book.
But that wasn't it.
I found it on Google tonight. It is from a speech Teddy Roosevelt gave in Paris in 1910
. Here goes:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, who's face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at best, in the end, knows the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.
Now look. We're testers. We do tend to be critical, and no, we don't build the software.
I'm not saying there is nothing noble in testing, and we need to go write code.
Neither am I say that we should stop being critical because those critics are all jerk.
I am, however, saying that, once in a while, if you want a breakthrough, you may have to dare greatly.
Next year, I'd like to do some things that are ... different. They're big (for me), a little risky, and a little scary ... but I'm going to try.
If you'd like to talk to me about it, I'll be at STPCon Fall
, and CAST
, and, yes, the intarwebs.
More to come.