Wednesday, 3 June 2015

On done and successful

"Success never slee... by icon" by MsSaraKelly (flickr)
Do we declare success too soon? That's a question I've heard posed by Gojko Adzic in a couple of talks plus a workshop that he ran with Dave Evans and it has stuck with me ever since. 

To paraphrase most projects or initiatives conflate "done" - for example as in "dev done" - with "success", when really it should be on delivery of value in a business outcome. So it maybe that we declare success in producing a new running shoe, when really it should be when the athlete who buys it runs a personal best. Or maybe creating a Video ad that is actually seen.

What success looks like and when we reach it matters to me as I want to keep focus; I also feel that the goal of success, and what it really means, is a key navigation aid in maintaining that focus. One product that makes me think about this is Google Glass and how the delivery of the product wasn't the final hurdle, there are plenty of stories about how it was a failure, creepy and generally suffered an image problem - the kit wasn't too bad (even if the screen a tad too small to be useful) but something about the vision in what success meant and the place Glass could take in the world just didn't work.

While Google pulled the plug the technology behind the tiny sensors that enable "disappearables" make products like Glass and other wearables look like a steam punk vision of the future. So solving yesterday's problems looks like a pitfall, and there are plenty of products that did this - for example remember mini discs? who would have thought broadband and a nifty encryption algorithm would change the market so much? It's a similar story for APS film, poorer quality but more convenient than 35mm film, trouble is that the gap with digital cameras didn't last long and they are a lot more convenient!

I'm no Steve Jobs but here are what I think are three things to help define what success looks like in your context 
  • Know your market - know if you're catering to a niche or a mass market, then resource and price appropriately (did Google do this with Glass?)
  • Keep an ear out for related technologies - but don't be suckered by shiny toys (although there is money to be made from those who are!)
  • Be in a position to take small bets - even if it means you may cannibalise a small portion of your product or you could create a whole new market

It's also worth considering this very wise advice ...
Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much
Or berate yourself either
Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else's

Baz Luhrmann - Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)

Further reading

Further developing an onboarding process for a green field product

This is  part of a series  about my side project  Bashfully , which aims to give graduates and other new entrants to careers a seasoned prof...