1.12.2010

Five free tips to speed your execution

Being at Microsoft almost two years now I've gotten to see how people, processes, and attitude contribute to speed of execution. Peers often ask me how I got things done, even without "approval," and by (gasp) not following Microsoft's heavyweight processes.

Here's what I tell them.


  1. Serialize your tasks. No matter what you're doing, what your roadblocks are, etc, this is a simple math problem. So long as your goal isn't "get a bunch of things done at exactly the same time (such as cooking a meal or a product launch) you will automatically increase your speed of execution simply by serializing your tasks instead of parallelizing them. Don't believe me? Try this out: pretend you have three tasks, each take 1 day to complete. Parallelizing them (spending an equal amount of time on each), you will finish all three at the end of day three. If you serialize them, you finish task 1 on day 1, task 2 on day 2, and task 3 on day three. Both approaches take three total days to complete all three. But serializing them gives you an average deilvery time of 2 days instead of 3 days (33% improvement). And you get the benefits from task 1 two days early and task 2 one day early. Always focus on one thing and get it done.


  2. Identify the least amount of work to move the needle. Smart people like to solve for the perfect solution, the 100% solution. Smarter people move the needle along the way. This is a cororally to the above. You can deliver an 100% solution in a month. Or, you can deliver a 25% solution this week, a 50% solution next week, a 75% solution the following week, and finally an 100%. The key here is once you've identified that 25% solution that moves the needle, get moving on it! Don't wait until the next phases are defined before you move on phase 1.


  3. Help others win. If you have a great idea, let others in on it. Let them win. Let them look good. Let them have some credit. Don't hoard it. You'll be shocked how fast things get done.


  4. Fail Faster. Startups know this very well. You will get things wrong more than you will get them right. And meetings, documentation, and brainstorming will not avoid the need to learn (although applied properly they will help you move forward with execution if you are getting others to contribute to your cause). So get on with failing. Now.


  5. Ask for forgiveness, not permission. A long time ago I heard "you will move as fast as you can make decisions." Amen. Every time you ask for buy-in, approval, etc you will slow yourself down. I work with a lot of Sr. PMs and I work with a lot of Jr. PMs. I never hear a Sr. PM say "I need to get my boss' sign-off" - they just do it and make it happen.




One caveat: know when care is required. The last bullet doesn't apply in all cases. You've got to know when moving forward does require input, approval, or buy-in. But the opposite is the important piece: know when you can aggressively move forward on your own and Make It Happen.

Oh yeah, one last thing: prioritize. I have probably 50 suggestions to help speed execution. But notice I kept the list to five. It's enough for you to get moving, without having to read a post 10 times as long.

So get moving :)

1 comment:

Debbie in Nashville said...

Great points!