@johncutlefish's blog

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It’s All Good. Until You’re Screwed

Published: September 15, 2016

There’s no free lunch or magic strategy.

Costs and risk are frequently invisible. Effects are non-linear and difficult to predict. What makes sense now often makes no sense in the long term. We all struggle with our biases. The sensible response proves to be irrational.

It is never easy …

  • We destroy our goals for three quarters, but end up struggling to pick up the pieces for the next two quarters
  • We pursue growth, but end up underestimating the accumulation of technical and cultural debt
  • We prevent errors, but end up overly confident that errors will be caught
  • We celebrate healthy tension, but end up with the mediocre, but less objectionable option
  • We try to keep everyone in the loop, but end up drowning in meetings and communications
  • We carefully define roles and responsibilities, but end up with too many constraints and too heavily matrixed team members
  • We design the perfect interface, but end up incapable of extending it for a new use-case
  • We hire 10x doers, but end up in need of 10x coaches and mentors
  • We seek alignment, but end up with too much momentum and process to pivot
  • We promote autonomy, but end up incapable of mustering the troops to defend against an immediate threat
  • We promote harmony, but end up having trouble with uncomfortable conversations
  • We stress individual accountability, but end up squashing team ownership
  • We chase velocity, but end up quickly shipping mediocre outcomes
  • We bail out a team, but end up limiting their ability to self-rescue in the future
  • We target more personas with our product, but end up with feature soup
  • We defeat one competitor, but end up leaving ourselves vulnerable to disruption And that’s life. What counts is our ability to observe and respond … to question the rational path, experiment, reflect, and repeat. What works now, might not work tomorrow! Ask yourself: what is restricting our ability to change course when the course is no longer smart?

Use a light touch and resist the urge to control and predict.