Fierce delivery – first working version in two weeks

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One of my favorite techniques for building trust and demonstrating intent when starting out with a new client is to build them the first version of their application in two weeks.

No it doesn’t have every bell and whistle, and it definitely wouldn’t when any design awards, but putting that first version of working software in their hands after a single iteration can do wonders for you project.

What this does for your team

For your team it sends a message. We are going to move fast.

No time to sit around and naval gaze. The first version of our shippable product needs to be ready two weeks from now.

  • That means coding.
  • Testing.
  • Analysis.
  • Design.
  • Feedback.

It’s all got to be there for this one thin slice of functionality (usually their most important user story).

That means we are going to have to travel light and drop anything that doesn’t add value.

And if we are going to be adding new features confidently as we go (without paying an exorbitant amount) we are going to need to some practices and discipline around how we change our software.

  • Continuously integration.
  • Automated builds.
  • Automated unit testing.
  • Regular feedback.
  • Aggressive refactoring.
  • Rhythm and ritual.

It’s all got to be there.

This is good because you want your team used to the idea of regularly making changes to a production ready system.

That’s how agile (XP in particular) likes to view systems under development. They are meant to be kept in a state of continuous production readiness. We are simply adding new features every week (starting with the first version after two week).

What this does for your customer

Most customers are blown away when you tell them you are going to delivery the first working version in two weeks.

It gets their attention.

It shows an intent, and fierceness around delivery sorely lacking in our industry.

Regularly producing shippable software changes the game and relationship with your customer. It shows them the importance of their role and highlights the fact they are first class citizens and needed for a successful project.

What this does for you

While I can’t promise you’ll lose weight or it will improve your sex life, I can tell you delivering fiercely will raise your profile and get you noticed where ever you choose to work.

People are going to want to know how you got business to the table.

They are going to want to know how you built a system for them which is exactly what they wanted.

They are going to want to know how you made going live a non-event.

And they are going to want to you do it again, and again, and again.

Look, I get that there may be thousand reasons why may not be practical to deliver your first working version in two weeks.

If this is the case, then think of it more as an attitude.

But you’ll never know unless you take that first step.

Like Henry Ford said: ““Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.”

Are you a Samurai or a rice picker?

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Two types of people you often find on software projects are samurai and rice pickers.

Samurai are the ones who:

  • say what needs to be said
  • call BS when they see it
  • laugh in the face of unrealistic schedules and expectations
  • tackle all the hard, complex, thorny stuff no one else wants to wade into
  • are technically excellent at their craft
  • take pride in their work
  • and are comfortable in their own skins

They are usually the people you see project managers and companies fist fighting over to get onto their projects.

Every project/team needs a couple samurai.

Then there are the rice pickers.
If samurai are the pioneers, rice pickers are the settlers.

Rice pickers are the people who:

  • like to collect a pay cheque, keep their heads down, and quietly go home at the end of the day.
  • aren’t necessarily lazy, they would just rather be told what to do and not have to think for themselves.
  • have opinions but aren’t big on taking the initiative
  • generally they just like to be left alone and are quite happy sitting in the maze nibbling their cheese
  • they also form the bulk of our workforce

Now, I’m not saying everyone can or should be a samurai.
The world needs rice pickers and people to keep the lights on.

But if you find you aren’t getting the opportunities, promotions, or things you feel entitled too, take a look in the mirror and honestly ask yourself:

And are you a samurai, or a rice picker?

Thanks to Jason Calacanis for acting as the inspiration behind this post.

Filling the joy bucket

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Making money is great.
And when you get paid by the hour it’s tempting to work as many billable hours as you can.

But while billable work is great for the bottom line, it’s not always great for the soul.
You’ve got works of art you want to create. Start-up ideas you want to do.

But not maximizing your billable hours feel like your leaving money on the table.

So what’s does a poor boy do?

Try this.

Find out what your most productive time of day is (the hours where the creative juices are really flowing) and see if you can’t reserve 1-2 hours each day to focus on one true your passion.

Then, for one week, block off those core hours and don’t let anything keep you from doing whatever it is you need to do.
artist at work
Start that book.
Build that protoype.
Learn that guitar song.
Make that movie.
Spend that time with the family.

Whatever it is you need to do to fill your joy bucket, do it.

Do this for a week then reflect.

  • Do you feel better for having spent time on x,y,z?
  • Are you less stressed because you feel like you’ve accomplished something you’ve always wanted to do?
  • Do you look forward to getting up in the morning, knowing you’ve set time aside for something you really enjoy doing.

I’m not saying life is all fun and games, and there won’t be times you need to buckle down and get stuff done.

But by setting aside some time for those things you feel compelled to do, you can put food on the table, and enrich your life (and the lives of those around you) at the same time.

So block off that time. Give yourself a week. And see if you’re happier.

You know what’s important in your life.
Go do it.

John Wooden on Success

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John Wooden was one of America’s greatest coaches.

He built a sports dynasty coaching the UCLA Bruins winning 10 national championships,7 in a row, from 1967 – 1973.

He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003.

And six years later The Sporting News selected him the greatest coach in American sports history.

John passed away this year, but in this Charlie Rose interview, John shares what I think is one of the best definitions of success I have ever heard.

Success is piece of mind attained only through self satisfaction and knowing you made the effort.
Do the best of which you are capable.

Don’t try and be better than someone else.
Just make the effort to be the best you can.

Don’t expect to make tremendous improvements each day.
Make a little each day.

Make each day your masterpiece.

That’s what my dad always taught me: “Just to do your best.”
Take comfort in knowing you gave it your all because at the end of the day, what else can you do?

While looking for more John Wooden perls of wisdom I came across this TED video.

Here’s another poem that helped John form his philosophy towards life, coaching, and teaching.

No written word,
No spoken plea,
Can teach our youth what they should be.
Nor all the books on all the shelves,
It’s what the teachers are themselves.

This world was a better place for John Wooden. He will be sorely missed.

Don’t underestimate the power of a brand

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apple logo starbucks logo

People feel more productive when they use Apple computers.
The wine tastes better in Riedel glasses.
And people prefer it when the coffee is served in a Starbucks mug or cup.

Whether the products actually do these things on their own isn’t the point.

It’s how you feel, and whether you are more productive because of their use that counts.

Some people scoff at the extra cost of an Apple laptop compared to a PC notebook.
They don’t feel it’s worth the extra couple hundred bucks.

But if it makes you ‘feel’ better and inspires you to do things you otherwise wouldn’t, I say it’s worth it.

If buying an Apple laptop, or treating yourself to a cup of fine coffee motivates you to:

  • start that book
  • write the blog, or
  • attend that night class

go for it. The extra couple dollars you spend getting your butt in gear will more than pay for itself with the art you create.

And their is no shame in personally harnessing the power of a brand.

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