goals

If there’s nothing else you remember from this post, spend 15 minutes writing down your goals for your next project so that you explain them better to the people who matter. The simple act of writing down your goals is a powerful organizer for you, the people you are interacting with in your project, and the people you want to benefit.

Build the Big Picture

When you paint the picture of a problem, a high-level reason why that problem needs to be solved, and a proposed end state that is a great start. That statement doesn’t explain the How, or the resources and tactics you use to get from “project not done” to “project done” within a known amount of time and effort.

So spend a few minutes writing down the ideal state and how you want to get there. Your way will probably be different than mine, which follows a template of prompts. STOP and go do that, then come back.

It seems silly to focus on such a small goal, because knowing what you’re going to do for your project, feature, or idea is obvious.

Isn’t it? 

Test that theory the next time you feel you have alignment on “what is my project” or “what is my feature” by asking someone else to tell you what they think your project is, what benefits it will deliver, and to state the goal you’re both working to achieve.

When the goal of the project, the definition for that project, and the benefits of that project are clear(er), it’s a lot easier to know where to start.

What does this look like in practice?

Consider this example: “Build a new web site Widget.”

  • If you know: “a Widget is a piece of Javascript code you include in the HTML/Web markup of your web page that runs by itself and renders the look and feel for part of your page using a script loaded from another web server hosted by another company”, you start to get a handle for the definition of the thing.
  • If you know: “we have never introduced a thing like this before onto one of our pages,” you might want to test that results differently to make sure there is no required dependency in your environment.
  • If you know: “we use these things all of the time, and this is a new instance of a thing we do already,” your comfort level will be increased.
  • And if you know: “we have already described the ‘look and feel’ of this widget in the fonts, colors, and information architecture of our website, for example page xyz,” you will have made it much easier to know what the thing is that you are building.

Stating the benefits for your project helps you to understand the measurement  you’ll need to quantify these benefits. Then, find the measurement as it stands today. Yes, it does seem elementary to find a baseline, and you need one to prove that something change. If there is no baseline, state your assumptions and move on.

Getting Started …

In the spirit of a brief solution, I’ll keep this post short too. When you’re ready to make your next project better, set a timer for 15 minutes and write the overall goal, 3 things you want to do toward that goal, a statement for how you will measure your progress, and any questions you have about the project. This simple exercise makes it easier to share what you’re doing, how you’re thinking about it, and how to make progress.

 

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