Agility is so hard because people are afraid. The rest is commentary.
One great personal example that’s relevant to how we act in our teams and organizations was my fear about relaunching my personal website / blog.
Fear was the the hardest thing for me in going from talking about blogging to blogging; it had nothing to do with the mechanics.
This has taught me that if we want our teams to act instead of endlessly staying in a paralysis by analysis loop, we had better figure out how to address that fear.
Back to the blog: I wanted the design to be right. I wanted the right SEO. I wanted to have the right platform, utilities like backup, the right email signup tool. I wanted to have “enough” content before launching. This all added up to paralysis by analysis and massive procrastination.
But no matter what the excuse, “procrastination,” as a friend lectured me, “is just another word for fear.”
Even after I launched the site, I found reasons to procrastinate (fear) publishing content: not good enough, not fully baked, need to polish it, you name it.
The irony of me finding that hard is that I write a column for a well regarded magazine just about every single week. And it’s even more ironic that I write memorandums and emails every day as a CIO that commit me and my organization to time, money, and risk.
So it actually wasn’t the real risk of blogging that was keeping me from creating content. It was the perceived risk.
But perceived risk still makes us, and our organizations, stop moving forward.
One of my entrepreneur buddies challenged me to think of my blog “like a startup.” This meant:
- Define the minimum viable product. Focus on the bare bones of what I was trying to accomplish. “Don’t get wrapped up in stuff that doesn’t matter,” he said. He’s right: getting wrapped up in stuff that doesn’t matter is what your fearful self wants: an excuse to delay.
- Define the worst case scenario. Seriously, what’s the worst that’s going to happen with a bad blog launch? Nobody notices. Or someone makes fun of you. Which, by the way, if your stuff is getting out there at all, someone is going to make fun of you no matter how good it is. There is no scarcity of haters.
- Define benefit of launch vs. negatives of delay. I have lots of ideas every week, that I want to say that don’t necessarily fit in InformationWeek or in internal memoranda. Being able to share those things means that I can get feedback on them and then be able to act on them. Awesome! The negative of delay in this case was simply the lack of the benefit. But all of us have projects that, when delayed, cause harm. Identifying that harm is one way to move yourself or your team forward to act.
- Establish constraints. I committed to relaunching the blog within a defined number of work sessions.
- Find schemers. Others who believe in what you’re doing encourage you to just get on with it and DO IT. My entrepreneur buddy and I committed to a certain number of “hackathons” followed by launch “no matter what.” Even if I felt that the site wasn’t ready, I couldn’t break my word to my friend who helped me, could I?
You have to know yourself to know what will motivate you, of course. For me, if I reframe the project in terms of benefits or commitments to others, that can really help.
What works for you? What doesn’t work for you?