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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Get The Right Start

Why do some projects win and some projects fail?

I have seen back-to-back projects with a great team, in the same area, get opposite results. Several times. I was involved.

I never noticed anyone working less hard, or the window of opportunity changing, or even bad luck.
What I noticed was that in each case, the initial solution idea was either right or wrong.

A wrong idea makes success much, much harder. The principle reason to keep playing with a wrong idea is to try to stumble upon a right idea. If you didn’t get it the first time why would you get it the second time?

I think there is a process to increase your chances of getting the right start.

First of all, there is a concept of work. When I was an industrial plumber I was told to show up with work shoes, a belt, a pocket notebook, a pencil and a knife to sharpen the pencil. I was amazed how many guys couldn’t do that for a week. I favor the classic Architecture, Design, Execution, Evaluation process unless someone is really attached to some other model.

Then there is a way of thinking. Merlin Mann says, “Innovation is starting where the last guy stopped.” I am a big proponent of finding and using contiguous processes that we have used before. I haven’t ever seen a new theory successfully applied by teams the first time they use it.

Frame the problem differently. Very often when a customer has a problem he can’t solve, the problem is not stupid customer syndrome, it is we are defining the problem in an unsolvable way. Taking the time to define the problem differently often means you can get the desired result without inventing anti-gravity. And not having to rent that anti-gravity box saves a lot of money.

My friend Bill Van Dyke says, “Most golf games are won before the first tee.” Unfortunately too many golfers arrive late and hung over and lose right there.

Do you spend enough time getting the right start?