Monday, January 28, 2008

Pick Any Two

Need something built? Problem solved?

You can have it done:
1. Quick
2. Cheap
3. Correct

Pick any two.

The above adage is something that gets brought up pretty regularly in the consulting world. Along the way, I've added a few more elements to flesh out some more guiding principles about what it takes to maximize deliver along all three fronts. These are in no particular order.

  • If it works, it works. Conceptual isn't relevant. Theory is only interesting if during the discussion, the participants are allowed to drink beer.
  • Simplify. There is no code that runs faster than No Code. Use fewer words and as little fine print as possible. If you can't hold the whole thing in your head, it's too complicated. If you need more than one diagram that can be read from a single sheet of paper, you've over done it. If there are more than three If's involved, you need to remove, restate, or reorganize.
  • If it isn't written down, it isn't real. If it can't be measured, it can't be written down.
  • Measure consistently. When your measures stop moving, then you've stalled and you should kill the [project/idea/initiative/report/product/etc.]. Or you've simply been measuring the wrong things. The later is more likely.
  • One voice, one vision. No great idea or product in history was ever conceived by more than three people. If your working group (or decision-making authority) is larger than that, you might as well quit now.
  • Intuition rules. You know what you know, don't second-guess. If you don't have an intuitive response, learn more about the subject until you do. Habits and standards always beat new, slick, and fancy when it matters.
  • Change consistently. It isn't that you should seek change or avoid change, but accept it when the opportunity presents itself. Whether you go gracefully or kicking and screaming, make sure your reasons are rock-solid, repeatable, and right.
  • If you can't change or compete, then compensate. We like to think everyone should be good at everything. Which is complete crap. If you need something done that you aren't good at, get someone better to do it. Don't like doing something? Pay, entice, or swap with someone else. You don't have to be good at everything if your address book is big enough. Stick to what you are good at and surround yourself with people who will compensate for your short-comings (as limited as they may be).
  • Going pro? Go big. When you decide to pay someone for their experience or specialized skills or knowledge, choose wisely and don't hesitate to pay well. Then shut up, listen, and learn. There is a sign in the garage that says: Oil Change $10, Oil Change While You Watch $50, Oil Change While You Help $200.
  • Kompromise Kills. Don't even start.

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