Big Rocks
22 Apr, 2020

How to have a big week?

When I don’t follow this habit, I usually don’t. When I do, I usually do.

I believe this is inspired by some combination of Eisenhower, my Dad and his leadership and Jesuits research, Action Method, and running lots of product teams. I’ve used it to turn around low-performing teams into exceptionally high-performing teams a few times over.

Big rocks.

On Monday, I commit to myself and to team members who care (which eventually becomes everyone!) to the big rocks I plan to move that week. 4-8 seems about right. What’s a big rock? Not too crazy, but something you can certainly say “happened.” Not “validate the market” but yes “interview 4 customers to help validate the market.”

If it becomes a metric, then you’ll game it. Never count the total number of rocks. Size matters not. A great colleague will help you adjust their scope a bit, or adjust them for priorities. Committing to the rocks and asking others if they seem right is a great way to check on priorities and ensure you’re aligned.

Over time superpowers ensue:

  1. You’ll want to fulfill your commitment and subconsciously change your own behavior and motivations to make sure you do. Especially if you committed in front of others.
  2. You’ll know yourself better. More often than not, you’ll do them. If you do far more in a week, you’ll feel like your commitments weren’t big enough and make bigger ones next week, rather than sandbagging. Sandbagging is obvious and there’s no game here to win… If you keep not getting them done, you’ll aim smaller and miss less.
  3. You’ll flexibly change priorities mid-week when stuff comes up by sizing up the “rockiness” size of whatever came up, and removing something of similar size.
  4. You’ll know when to call it quits on Friday.
  5. You’ll avoid/cancel/cut short meetings you don’t need if they keep you from the rocks. You’ll avoid over-collaborating and looking to other team members’ objectives
  6. You’ll inspire the team and their performance will all improve in a positive, non-judgmental way. It’s fun to commit to each other that you’ll perform at the height of your potential and then do it!
  7. You’ll know when to apologize. “Folks, I didn’t make good on one of my commitments. I apologize.” Better, you’ll do it earlier. Wednesday standup: “looks like I’ll have to choose between rocks, and I think this is the one I need to drop this week.” Excellent boundary setting and expectations management. It’s a great rhythm-builder of what can be expected of you.
  8. You’ll communicate the execs because you’re communicating like one. If you’re off-target, they’ll change your objective. If you are afraid of being dive-bombed with “what have you done for me lately?” you’re always ready.

Here are mine for this week, pending review of CMO on the optional ones.

Maker rocks:

  1. Certain: act on my ~30 small action items from user feedback and therapist council last week
  2. Certain: make /Product pages (from wireframe, in Shopify cms)
  3. Certain: launch the “reference customers” Parent council
  4. Certain: produce animated video to pre-recorded voiceover from Bradley
  5. Optional: produce email drips for tech dads, if desired by CMO
  6. Optional: create tech-dad podcast production schedule and plan, if desired by CMO

Manager rocks:

  1. At least 20 apps on the phone, in right categories
  2. GET PRODUCT SHIPPED – 4 kids using the OS by end of week ::crosses fingers::
  3. Usual 1-on-1s, aligning, meetings, and QA

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A synthesizer of neuroscience, classical rhetoric, philosophy, 5,000+ hours at whiteboards, high stakes presentations, Fortune 10 consulting, and startup growth.

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