It’s Your Business
- Author: Jim Young
- Subject Matter: Decision-making
- Issue: Guiding principles
This is a bad Reman U, but maybe that’s a good thing
This is a bad Reman U. I mean it. It hasn’t been thought through, agonized over, contemplated, speelchecked or proofreaded. I didn’t have a blinding insight nor did I have one of those everyday experiences that suddenly feels like an analogy for good work/life decisions. What I do have is a deadline, a commitment – ultimately, a promise. I would rather sign my name to a bad Reman U than break a promise. So, this is a bad Reman U, but maybe that’s a good thing.
You see, when I write a Reman U I start to think about the longevity of words. I think about how language is our legacy, literature is our history and the things we take the time to compose can often ripple out into eternity. And then I think, “I better not sound like an idiot.” And that’s the crucial moment where my fingers suddenly stop, and I begin to agonize over every word. All progress halts as I struggle to make the perfect word choice.
Recently, I was making another kind of choice, and this abrupt transition lets me tell you about it. I was configuring a new tool for my department to manage our workflow of tasks and projects, and I came to a potential sticking point. The tool I had researched and chosen to use had dozens of pre-configured project styles. Each one had plusses and minuses, and the one I chose will dictate how we work for the foreseeable future. In short, it was a decision that would impact my team, our internal customers and even our external customers. How could I make that choice but still not figure out how to end this paragraph nicely?
I chose the option that solved most of our current problems, even if we lost some features we currently liked. But, crucially, only after I’d read the documentation on how to migrate to a different style if this one didn’t suit us. Because of that, I know that even if I thought there was a chance this was the wrong choice, it was still the right choice to go forward.
So far, it’s worked out quite well AND it also turned out to be the wrong choice. Solving immediate problems means that we adopted it and got immediate benefits. But, we’re also finding things we want next, and that will require us to convert to a different style. Good thing it’s so easy!
Two principles for guiding your decision
These two principles can guide your decision making and allow you to move forward at a good pace while staying flexible enough to work around problems and limitations.
Any choice is better than not choosing: Let’s pretend you want to run an ad in a local paper or on the radio, but you keep putting it off because you can’t think of the perfect way to stand out. Your current need is to get an ad out there. Until you do, you’ll reach exactly no one. Get something going first and start generating feedback, then adapt as you learn.
Have an exit strategy: You’re going to make a bad choice sometime, the law of averages dictates it, so make your bad choices easy to move away from. Don’t commit to running the same ad for a long period of time, or pay for a year of an untested service when a monthly option exists. It will be worth the relatively small extra cost to avoid sticking yourself with a bad choice.
In the programming world, we have a phrase “Software in development doesn’t do anyone any good.” You have to let people use your software before they can get a benefit – even if it’s not the full benefit you’d like to provide. It’s probably more widely understood simply as “Done is the new Perfect.” But there are different kinds of “done,” and safe ways to make decisions or deliver on the deadlines that you’re not entirely confident in.
So, this is the end of my bad Reman U. I was trying to think of how I can end it in a way that’s meaningful, but then I realized I was doing it again. So instead, I’m solving the immediate problem and not committing to any particular ending:
Until we meet again!