I Need to Stop Changing My Mind!
post # 261 — December 14, 2006 — a Careers, Managing post
Instigator Blog has come up with a neat idea: asking people what they have learned this year.
In the past year, I have been trying to get a great deal done. I have been working not only on continuous improvement for my own website (and my consulting work) but also helping with a thousand decisions needed for my wife’s new website.
New ideas and new initiatives have been launched weekly, sometimes daily — and that’s been the problem. A great deal of effort has been put in to things that were started and never finished. It’s not that they were bad ideas — it’s that the priorities always seemed to be changing. I lived with it because I thought it was evidence of innovation and creativity.
Now I’m not so sure. I (and the people who work for me) have wasted a lot of time stopping and starting.
When I heard Craig Weatherup (former CEO of The Pepsi Bottling Company ) speak he was asked what he thought his strengths were as a CEO. He said that one of his strengths was that he was always good at having a “filter” for actions, decisions and topics. He would lay out a strategy, and from that develop a strong decision screen that clearly identified which issues should be passed through the screen and brought to his attention, and which should be refused.
If, for example, his Board wanted him to look at something that was “off the screen,” he would say “I’m not going to change my priorities just for this topic. If you want me to go back to the beginning and redesign my entire screen, I will, but I’m not going to make constant readjustments.”
Another way he said it was that he felt that one of his strengths was that we was slow to say “Yes” and quick to say “No.”
Every two weeks, he would look ahead at the appointments on his calendar and eliminate non-essential, non-strategic activities.
There’s a term for all this that some other people, especially those in software design: the point comes in every project when you must “freeze the design.”
I now understand the power of that, and the wastefulness that results from constantly shifting priorities and work tasks. Weatherup’s rules are invaluable: Be ready to make changes only if it’s truly worth going back and redesigning the entire strategy of what you’re up to. Have a slow yes and a fast no. Brutally eliminate off-strategy activities.
Now, if only I had the personality and discipline to do all that!
What do you think? Is it better to go for focus and constancy of purpose, or be open and flexible to new ideas as they emerge? Is it possible to have the best of both worlds?
Pat McGee said:
Don’t change. Keep doing what you’ve been doing. Remain flexible.
1. Sunk costs are not relevant to investment models. (About the only thing I remember from getting a Master’s in Accounting.)
2. In software, “agile” projects never ever freeze the design. More agile projects succeed in meeting customers real needs than those that do freeze the design. Those that freeze the design often deliver, but they often deliver stuff that the customer no longer cares about.
posted on December 14, 2006