I’ve come to a realization in my career. One that in retrospect has been true all of my career and could be one of the most significant indicators of the long-term success, or failure, of businesses and organizations big and small. Keyboard Clicks.
I’ve been thinking about recent observations and then comparing them to observations I’ve made as I have worked with businesses ranging from mom and pop pizza restaurant delivery services to the U.S. Military. As you walk around organizations – including you own – do you hear a ton of keyboard clicking? If you do, then you might think, “Wow, this is a busy, and therefore productive and profitable place.” But in reality, that is the sound of complacency.
Over time, I’ve seen businesses go through this pattern:
- They find a cool (or not so cool) piece of software.
- They use it to really ramp up their organization, usually using it as their cornerstone.
- They hit a plateau where they rely on that software – and the clicking that goes into it.
They don’t continue to improve in what they do, nor do they grow. They keep on doing the same old thing – over and over – for years. Sure, they increase revenue over time and hire more people. But, that’s the thing – they have to hire more and more people to keep clicking keyboards to increase that revenue. But, at the end of the day, the CEO (and worse yet the Board and investors) wonder why they don’t see stronger growth.
So, what does that CEO – or you as a competent product owner/ analyst/technology leader looking to make a difference in your organization – need to be looking at?
- Automate and stop the keyboard clicking – let people focus on more important things like working with other people. Others in the organization to help it grow and do the things only people can do, talk to customers to help them with the problems people solve best. (Radical, I know!) And, as a bonus, you will remove human error.
- Process Improvement – if you can’t remove the clicking, can you reduce it?
- Strategy – has your organization taken a fresh look at its short-term and long-term strategies? Is it stuck and needs to get unstuck and grow into new areas?
I challenge you to stop right now and listen. What do you hear? Do you hear a ton of keyboard clicking? What are you going to do about it?
Recently my manager asked me to give a talk to my teammates about how to excel at being a Product Owner. I was honored that my manager asked me to do this and touched that my teammates were receptive of my talk.
When I first tackled the talk, I started listing out what I thought were the qualities of a Product Owner. Yet, I quickly realized I was basically writing a job description; a list of tasks that a Product Owner does – not what makes them successful. So I decided to do an introspective; fillet myself open to my teammates and share what I think I do right, and the things I feel I don’t.
When I did this, I was very pleased with the list of talents & qualities I came up with. I think they truly reflect success IMHO. So with that in mind, I wanted to take some time here and talk through some of them over a blog entry or two (or who knows, maybe more or, less).
Like I said to my teammates, only Jesus was perfect. So, we will never be perfect being a Product Owner – or in anything. So the first thing that will make you successful as a Product Owner is to let go of perfection. Don’t stress about “it must be perfect or I will fail.” Two things are going to happen. One, if you are a Believer, God will not let you fail. Two, (and probably related to the first), you will succeed naturally.
As a Product Owner, and as I will talk about (if more happens over less), you are NOT going to know everything. Over time you will get really good with your product, but back to perfection, don’t believe or expect you will know everything.
What did you use to think of people in school who thought they knew everything? Heck, what do you think of people today if they boast they know everything?
What if there something you find you don’t know? Especially during a team meeting or meeting with your Stakeholder? Just admit it. Nothing wrong with that. Next, immediately follow up with telling them you will find out – you will get the answer. Then, make your Next Action in the project to go find a SME. You will learn, grow better in your Product, look good to your project team and succeed.
When I was growing up and the speed limit on every highway in the United States was 55 MPH, the slogan was, “Speed Kills.” Well, today I’m telling you, “(believing you have to focus on) Perfection Kills.” Accept that and you will be miles ahead.
Question: Are you a stressed out Business Analyst / Product Owner? Could it be because you are a perfectionist?