TBM 9/52: When Nothing/Everything (Actually) Works...
When teams have no idea if (and why) things are working, they resort to....
As long as the numbers keep going up and to the right, our strategy is to do everything, and more! Must be working!
The numbers aren’t going up because we aren’t doing enough. DO MORE.
Do the New Shiny Thing
We're struggling, but we have a NEW strategy that will save the day...as long as we EXECUTE
The focus shifts to vanity metrics, and unhelpful proxy metrics (including delivery velocity). The challenge is that this makes it even harder to figure out if anything is working. There’s more! Context switching. Cognitive load. Attrition. Tribal knowledge lost (and along with it any sense of what "working" actually means). Focus on what you can control™. Who has time for measurement now we're doing so much? Oh wait, the data is a mess anyway, and we're too busy to fix it.
And the wicked loop is set in motion!
When I meet with teams, I often ask something like:
What are you doubling down on? What's work recently that you are going to do more of?
The range in answers is incredible.
Some teams can't point to a single effort/initiative that had a positive (or negative) outcome. Maybe the business did great—inertia is a wonderful thing—but it is unclear whether anything they built had an impact. Forget controlled experiments. NO signals. They never even stuck around long enough to find out. Done? Next project.
Other teams answer quickly with:
We were doubtful at first, but we tried a couple small things to improve the onboarding flow. Our goal was to reduce the time to creating the first project and importing data. The first couple things didn't work, but then we had a breakthrough when we tweaked the way we presented the import sources. That inspired us to keep focusing on that part of the customer journey.
The difference is stark. It feels so different. One feels lumbering, doubtful, and deflating. The other feels like the team is having fun, and is excited about the future.
THAT is the part that most companies underestimate...
…how people are so much more effective, creative, and motivated when they have a sense of whether is something is actually working. And even NOT working. In my experience, that type of feedback is valuable and motivating as well because it gets you one step closer to finding something that does work.
Success theater is deflating. Feedback is motivation and inspiring.
Make an effort. Because if everything/nothing works, then your choices are limited. You can do more, DO MORE, or bounce back and forth between new strategies.