Haupz Blog

... still a totally disordered mix


2022-10-09 — Michael Haupt

Leeor Engel wrote down a bagful of wisdom on priorities, parallel and unplanned work, team structures, and more. I highly recommend to read it, and will add some of my own thoughts here, expanding on some hand-picked items from the article.

There's one bit titled "finish what you start", and that's all too important, as well as all too easy to get wrong. Starting something new always has this magic feeling about it ("... jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne ..." as Hermann Hesse aptly put it). That new technology / tool / language / library / framework right there, that's so good, we have to use it. Never mind the cruft we haven't cleaned up yet, we'll eventually do that ... sound familiar?

Finishing is strictly more important than starting, and while starting something may be more exciting, finishing is where the value lies. The Pareto principle is right: the first 80 % of the work are done in 20 % of the time, and then it gets daunting and tedious. Getting something up and running as a prototype is easy and fun. Shipping it as a product involves lots of attention to detail, rounding off rough edges, and work, work work.

An interesting metric for every team or individual is to look back on a week, sprint, month, or other period of time, and see what the ratio of "things finished" over "things started" is. A value greater than or equal to one is encouraging, a value below one can be a sign of problems ahead.

This topic is directly related to the question of how many things to drive at the same time, and the article has a section suggesting to "prefer a single stream of work when possible. 2 max." - that is indeed highly recommendable, at all levels of an organisation. The greater the degree of parallelism, the more time needs to be invested to manage said parallelism. The impact of dependencies between different teams working in parallel - and it is natural that there are such dependencies - will be heavier when there's more going on at the same time.

Patrick Lencioni suggests to have one "thematic goal" at a time - as an organisation, mark you! - and get to the next one only what that is achieved. This ensures focus throughout the organisation, and naturally does away with any doubt about priorities.

Tags: work