Have a plan for winning

I’m a big fan of board games, and I have invested many hours of my life playing board games. I’m not talking these “group fun games” like Cranium or Guesstures, I’m talking about games that have more strategy like Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Dominion.

Each of these games has it’s own strategy, but I’ve found that in all of these games, the most important strategy is to have a plan for winning. Not only do I have to have a plan for winning, I need to do it fast. I’ve won many games where I came from behind because the person who was ahead got comfortable with the lead and didn’t keep pushing forward.

The same idea applies to software development. I don’t like when command-and-control managers try to push unrealistic timelines on development teams. But at the same time, every business could use everything that you’re doing for them yesterday, so we need to find a way to go faster.

This means that I need to make the best use of my time, all the time. This especially applies when things are a little slower. We’ve had times where we’ve had weeks where there was nothing pressing to be done and we decided to tackle technical debt in the code. This is one of the most important times on a project because this is your chance to come up with a way to do things better and faster.

This is when you need to have a plan for winning. You need to determine what things you can do that will help you write better software faster. You definitely don’t want to squander the opportunity, because who knows when another one like it might come along.

We are in a race against time. Any time wasted means lost revenue, lost productivity, missed market opportunities, and higher development cost. All of these things are critical to the business. Imagine that we were writing an app for your company with your money. Would you do things differently?

Everything that you do on a project should be done with a sense of urgency. Not a fear-based pressure that leads you to make bad decisions, get flustered, and cut corners, but a conscious effort to maximize the return on the investment of your time (and yes, your time is expensive). This shouldn’t have to come from your manager or some outside source, this needs to come from inside you.