Productivity April 16, 2020

One small thing to make your goals radically better

Sten Pittet @spittet

Don't: write what you're doing
Do: write what you want with the thing you're doing

Eg:
Don't: Add Stripe for payments
Do: Get XX paid customers

Don't: Build MVP
Do: Get XX users on the beta

Don't: Launch on PH
Do: Get XX signups

Why?
It's really easy to get sucked into interesting problems and forgetting the bigger picture. By focusing on the desired outcomes you're giving yourself different options to get there.

If Stripe is too hard to integrate you can just email invoices manually. If your MVP takes too long you can cut scope to get feedback from users as soon as possible. PH is one strategy, but not the single one that you should bank on.

(note: you can still list out the things you're doing, but consider them as tasks and experiments rather than goals — some will work, some won't whereas your goals should stay true no matter what)

  1. 2

    I think you should write both. What you actually have to do, AND what you want the result or outcome to be.

    1. 1

      This. If I just write "Get XX paid customers"... well what the heck am I supposed to do now? Well it turns out, that adding Stripe payments is the next step. Okay, great.

      1. 2

        Hey 👋 I wrote as much at the end:

        you can still list out the things you're doing, but consider them as tasks and experiments rather than goals

        If you say "My goal this month is to add Stripe payments" then you (or your team) is absolutely going to obsess on that. That's the goal and that's what should be shipped.

        The problems start when unknown complexities are discovered. The API is missing some params, you need to deal with annual plans a certain way etc, or they don't support the type of subscription you want... The team will spend time looking for ways to solve the Stripe integration because that's the goal.

        Now, if you put "get XX paid customers" then things are different. When faced with hurdles you can start pondering if you should keep going with Stripe or if you should pick an option B. Perhaps you can just charge customers manually, or perhaps there's another service that can be a better fit.

        Deliverables (Stripe integration) and impact (getting revenues) are 2 different things. Yes you should absolutely track your deliverables, but it's much better to focus on impact when listing your milestones and goals.

        It's incredibly easy to get sucked into an interesting technical problem. Keeping the bigger picture in mind makes it easy to make tradeoffs — at the end of the day we do the technical work to move the needle in specific ways.

        ---

        Now, a real story. Here's the biggest way it played out in my personal experience:

        I was PM for a CI/CD product called Bamboo Cloud (from Atlassian). We were looking for ways to improve the platform, and kept iterating on complex challenges to make it easier and easier to use. But due to its nature (platform agnostic, BYO build infrastructure) it was pretty challenging to make it great for our users on the Cloud (the server version was actually much easier to use).

        We shifted our goal from "improve the product" to "get people to do CI/CD on the Cloud with Atlassian". A few days after changing our mindset we realize that we did not need Bamboo Cloud to be a separate offering. If our goal was to get people to do CI/CD we could just build it on top of Bitbucket. Users were there, had their repo, and wanted to run tests and deployments.

        Convincing a 2k people org to shut down a product, and relaunch it from scratch as a different offering is not something that happens every day. But it ended up being so much better for everyone.

        ---

        This is a long response, but I felt the comments were a bit snarky. I've seen IH/makers list milestones that are technical while never really talking about the expected impact. YMMV and feel free to adopt the approach you want, but I'm quite bullish on my recommendation — a simple change of words can help you get more creative with your solutions.

        1. 2

          Sorry @spittet. I didn't mean to be snarky, but I totally agree that I sounded that way upon rereading my comment.

          "My goal this month is to add Stripe payments" <---- to me this is NOT a goal. Which means I agree with you already. But it also means that I missed the point of your post the first time around. I was thinking you were more trying to say to stop adding things like "Add Stripe Payments" to todo lists, which I didn't agree with. But now upon reread obviously I should just read more closely because you weren't saying that at all.

          In a not dissimilar vein, at a former company whenever we added a todo item to our list we were required to add a "why" note with it. It really worked.

          Much agreed with your words, and definitely of the power of framing things in certain lights. And again, sorry for being snarky.

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            No worries and thanks for your response! (Loved your post about doing the things that don't scale by the way)

  2. 1

    https://tability.io/ is awesome! Love the font first of all. ;-) OKR tracking is hard. Used Range but it's better suited for daily standups. Asana and the likes are too broad. Gonna give tability a try!

  3. 1

    Great info...thank you for the insights.

  4. 1

    Well written 💯👍

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