Friday, April 11, 2008

Define a Target

It is invaluable to define a clear target to rally the troops. Without that target, the troops are unsure what they are fighting for, they can't make decisions for themselves and they don't know when to stop. Design and development teams thrive on these types of elements to maintain motivation.

What are we fighting for? How will we change the world? The design and development team wants to know that their work has some meaning, that it will be the best in some way. Without knowing exactly what that end state is intended to be, it is difficult to grasp how it will be the best of bread. Which in turn causes teams to loose motivation. The work ends up being no more more that a series of task that they do in order to get paid. For some people this is OK and they prefer to work in this manner, but you can't expect them to innovate or go beyond the call of duty without motivation.

What do I do next? The key to a efficient team is that they are self motivated and know exactly what to do next. If they need to wait for instructions on the next steps, bottle neck start to form. They are not able to make educated decisions based on their granular knowledge which can lead to lost opportunities and avoidances.

Are we there yet? It's not just about knowing if a given task is complete, it's also about knowing to what level each piece has to be taken to, again related to granular knowledge. This obviously has an impact on scheduling causing last minute decisions to either ship in a weak state or miss the delivery date.

These are just some of the issues you face when you do not have a well defined target. Working with ambiguity, however, is something that we are constantly faced with in our tight deadlines and vague client directives. So how do you maintain a motivated, self-driven team that can schedule it's time? You could have Colin Powell make presentation for you, but hopefully you stipulate that the target may change or evolve over time. You can also use concepts instead of detailed pictures to communicate the state. Sometimes this can be done in a single sentence statement with lots of adjectives. Communicating the concept is much quicker then deciding on a final design on day 1. If there is a visual that is presented as the target, it should be made clear that final may evolve. You don't want box in creativity either. Thats a different blog.

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