Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Focus on the Wow Task

Spend time working on the one important thing. If the one important task is completed, then the other supporting tasks will fall into place. Every assignment has a metric by which success is measured. It may not be clear at first what the metric is, but the project was assigned for a reason. If you can determine the reason and the desired result, then you can focus your effort on the one important task and do it well. The supporting tasks can be outsourced or half-assed if the one important task is done well.

Make decisions on less important items as early as possible and don't change the decisions. If you are working in a group this means getting everyone to make a decision and to agree not to change the decision. Also, make sure you get management to sign off on a prototype or mockup. Show them a mockup and tell them that if you create the final product in the form of the mockup then they can't critic it.

Knowing which task is the one wow task will take practice. The wow task is the one that everyone talks about after the project has been completed. It is usually not the easiest and rarely is it the hardest, but it is the most memorable and admirable. Whoever does the wow task will end up receiving most of the credit for the project.

One of my first job assignments was to assist another engineer program a $7 million machine. There were so many moving parts and complicated bits of code to get it all to work. It took several months to program the entire machine.

This particular machine was 35 feet long and ended with two shiny, bright yellow robots. Guess what everyone wanted to know about, yes, the robots. As the new guy, I was tasked with programming the robots because they were easy. It turns out that programming the robots was the one wow task, even though I programmed them in a week, while other parts of the machines took a month or more to program.

After the project was completed I got a 17% promotion and was told that I probably would never see a promotion that big again. (I took that as a challenge.) Look for the shiny and brilliant, the sparkle that catches the eye, and make sure your name is honestly attached to it.

- Work smarter this week!