Theme for the New Year

We’re starting a new calendar year, and with it come big new challenges.

Much could be said about this. Over the holidays I came across a brief article from Time entitled “Myth of the Fearless Entrepreneur” that makes a great starting point.  Consider this:

In a survey of people who had founded growth companies, only 12% attributed their success to an “unusual or extraordinary idea,” but 88% reported that their success was due mainly to “exceptional execution of an ordinary idea.”

This doesn’t diminish the value of creativity to our business success – I think we could use a lot more creativity – but “exceptional execution” would be a great theme for the coming year.

Often times the winning – or losing – margin in a competitive event is razor thin, and thus just “a little more” is enough to make all the difference. The same is true in how we design and build our products, and how we treat our customers. If our products could be just a little faster, a little easier to use, a little easier to install and configure – it might be just enough to cause that big prospective customer to make a “yes” decision for our company instead of for a competitor.

A lot of products and services today seem mediocre or indifferent, or at least some aspect of them. For example, that MP3 player (not iPod) I got recently seemed well made, except – the user interface is maddeningly illogical or unusable in places, and the instruction manual was written by someone whose mission did not extend beyond providing a superficial and cursory set of instructions. Doesn’t make me very happy, or think very well of the company that made it.

Think of the products and/or services you provide. Are they as good as they could be? If you were secretly to watch a customer use what you have built or deal with your organization (or even you) – would you smile or would you cringe? Think of things that went wrong in 2008 and what caused the problems. Was it just bad luck, or could those problems have been prevented by just a little more planning, a little more double checking, or a little more effort in the right place? Here’s a little example:

At one point last year I attended a Live Meeting where there were over 100 attendees. The presenter logged in to Live Meeting at the same time as everyone else, then wasted 15 minutes of everyone’s time while he fumbled around trying to get everything to work right. In a culture of exceptional execution, that presenter would have joined the meeting early to make sure that the audience had a smooth experience.

Great products and great services can only result from exceptional execution.

Let’s have an exceptional 2009!

About John

John Peterson has been creating and managing the creation of software for his entire professional life. During that time, he's been through many projects large and small, worked with a wide variety of people on a wide variety of technologies, made a lot of mistakes, and learned a lot in the process. The intention of this blog is to pass along the wisdom he has accumulated in the creation of software to those who may be earlier in their path of experience.
This entry was posted in Execution. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply