Humans Around A Desk #4 - It's all about making sensible decisions
It’s never too late to standardise terminology
Every organisation has tricky terminology. Whenever key features evolve, the product pivots or time simply passes, words once used to describe features become muddled. In your code it’s called X, your marketing team call it Y and one salesperson bizarrely still insists on calling it Z.
You may feel blocked by the fact that terminology is often difficult to change (for example, inside database schemata). But do not underestimate the power of changing the words you speak. A confusing name may prevent users from even trying a feature.
So wherever you can standardise on simple, descriptive terminology, you should. Even if, behind the scenes, you sometimes have to keep using the old style. No one likes to be confused.
Impact vs effort
How do you feel when you hear that something is going to take six months to build? The prospect is likely off-putting. But what if doing so helps to win a large client? Suddenly, it may sound like an excellent idea.
Estimates are subjective and they cannot be be interpreted in isolation. Something that is high effort and high impact may be worthy of consideration, whereas something that is low effort and low impact may be a waste of time.
If you can predict how much impact something will have, you can decide how much effort you are comfortable spending on it, and therefore whether it makes sense to proceed or whether you should return to the drawing board.
Keep it simple
A few questions to consider:
What is the one thing your product does really well—the thing that draws customers in? And once they are in, is that feature both easy to discover and to use? Or are other parts of the product competing for their attention? If so, what would it take to simplify the product and remove or hide distractions, to get every customer to a place of value every time?
‘Hey kid, how’d you like to be in charge of Bob?’
That’s how most people get their first taste of management: informally, early in their career, and without any further guidance.
No one told me what to expect, being in charge of someone else. They didn’t mention that the dynamic would change. That professional relationships with humans are complex. That it is absolutely not a promotion.
Reflecting on this, I have recently written a short book called Becoming Management, detailing the main things I have learnt so far in my journey to not be an awful manager; the things that no one told me the first time I was given line-management responsibilities.
I still have a lot to learn. But this is what I’ve got so far.