Monday, June 4, 2007


I'm going to try to break out some of the ideas in my lengthy intro into some more chapterised essays.

My Blinding Flash of the Obvious is the content of this first post: what buckets do you choose to make sure you catch all your Stuff?

Friends, I'll give you the straight answer here. You'll read guff and stuff out there in the Wide Wide World of Web about what you need, and it will be very confusing. It will be written by highly caffeinated geeks who think that spitting out concepts is the same as spitting out information. These are the five buckets you need:

  • goals
  • projects
  • next-actions
  • someday/maybe
  • waiting for
That's it. That's the entire kaboodle, kit included.

What do you want to do with your life? What do you want to do THIS YEAR with your life? What do you need to get done to meet your commitments? Why get out of bed in the morning? What will be the proof that you've been worth your salary? It's not enough to be working on projects - you have to know WHY you're working on those projects and not something else. This can be short: 5 items. Any more and you'll be unable to commit to the right project that will satisfy your goals.

Ok. So what are you working on? What are your open loops? We don't need to know what Projects you're assigned to; that's what your KPIs are for. Just write down the projects. You're a natural born planner - you know what's involved in your Project; you need to do your CAPEX, you need to get the concept design done, you need to find a supplier for those components, you need to you need to you need to you need to. What ducks do you need to get in a row? What blind alleys do you need to go shooting down? What processes do you need to follow? What conversations do you need to have?

Ok, this ought to be obvious. Go through your projects and write down the very next-action that needs doing on each project. If there are two seperate actions that could be taken, don't choose between them just write them down. But don't write down the second and third steps - that stuff is doomed to live in your project planning. Face it, the future doesn't happen according to your plan. All you can do is manage yourself, now.

I have to be honest and say that I don't think this list is particularly useful for me. As I said above, I'm uncomfortable trying to second-guess future realities by populating the Someday list with Step 3 through Step 43 that I'll be able to start as soon as I've done A and B. It doesn't work like that. And I've got far too much work on my plate for such a thing as Maybe. I either decide to do something or decide not to do something - there's never going to come a quiet lull in the activity where it becomes appropriate to discuss getting a new CAM software that integrates directly with SolidWorks. I either need to do it at an inappropriate time or toss the idea. I'm comfortable with both approaches.

But I keep the list because without it there would be a functional hole for actions and projects that are worth taking but can be cheaply deferred for the present.

waiting for
This is perhaps the keystone for me. I was amazed the other week when I went through my waiting for list and shot a followup email to the interstate sales manager asking where my competitor sample castors had gone. He'd sent out the request to all the branch managers then forgotten about it altogether. So had they! Weeks had gone past where I thought they were all diligently beavering away for me using their contacts to generate samples I needed to validate the design for the castor THEY'RE hassling ME to hurry up and design. They'd forgotten about it!

The thing that really got to me wasn't that the branch managers had forgotten the commitment. These things happen. That's what communication is for. That's why engineers spend 3/4 of their waking life chasing things up. What got to me was that the National Sales Manager had no record or reminder or popup or note of the deliverable that his staff had promised. He hadn't added this to his waiting for list. He had no live document of what future events had to take place before his promise to me was fulfilled.

The most profitable thing I've ever done for my company is to develop the skill of never losing a thread. Where's the quote on that widget? Coming next week. What's the latest scope? I'm waiting for the Production Manager to submit his comments. What's the state of the tooling? Tooling design is sitting with the toolmaker.

I prefer those answers to: which widget? I was supposed to get quotes for that too? Scope? Did you not want me to show that to the Managing Director yet? Tooling? I dunno. I guess they're working as fast as they can.

Competitor samples that you need to benchmark the design? I dunno what happened to that.

1 comment:

blair said...

What does Buckets refer to? Is it a system or a product you're developing?