Crawl, Walk, Run
Babies figure out how to do it right – how to make progress and get to an end result. I think we can learn something from them! If you stood a baby up and expected them to walk, you’ll realize they are not equipped to do this. They don’t have the skills in their legs to move that way, they haven’t yet figured out how to move their bodies, so the idea of walking can be fairly ambiguous (ok, I am assuming I know what a baby is thinking).
At work, there is a lot of emphasis on meeting goals (running) and sometimes these goals can seem nearly impossible. As managers, we drive a lot of these goals and initiatives by presenting measurements on progress to upper management. This can be good to help drive the team towards the end results, but it can have a negative consequence as people get bogged down on the end result and not on the best way to get there. And this can cause added stress because as they figure out how to get to the end result and when they may be able to accomplish it, they start thinking about the measurements and how poor it may look until they are done. In some cases, I have seen teams compromise the accuracy of their measurements to show they are running when truly they are only crawling. This is especially true when incorporating big changes into a team. There’s this idea of immediate change, skipping all the necessary steps to getting there and somehow magically being at the end. Similarly to the whole concept of “enjoying the journey”, almost every result, goal, or deliverable at work has a progression that needs to be followed to be successful. And that’s where the concept of crawl, walk, run comes in.
This concept easily applies to some standards in the software development lifecycle like having milestones or checkpoints during a project. Each milestone builds on the previous one until you get to the final result. Exit criteria for milestones means that you need to prove you can crawl before you are allowed to walk, and prove you can walk before you can run. The crawl, walk, run thinking can especially be applied when there is ambiguity. If you have an ambiguous, complex situation in front of you, how do you get to the end result? You need to plan it out in small baby steps. Here are some suggested focus areas as you or your team progresses from crawling to running.
- Investigation/information gathering
- Determining a plan for a plan and a date for a date
- Over communicating any change in team philosophy, thinking, or approach
- Understand what end result should look like
- Roles and responsibilities are ironed out
- Nail down requirements or guidelines
- Determine what processes need to be established
- Understand potential dependencies
- Start initial execution in the form of prototyping or doing a dry run (practice)
- Plan out the cadence for giving status so that progress is shown, but that it's understood that you are only partially to the end result
- Execution in happening across the team
- Roles, responsibilities, and processes are clearly understood allowing for a stream-lined and efficient team
- Reporting results is happening regularly
- End result is acquired
- "Running" potentially continues as you move forward
- Start thinking of long-term plans - 3 year roadmap
Don't set expectations by only focusing on the running. So go ahead and act like a baby by making crawling and walking important aspects of the end result. Making progress is truly a journey. So enjoy the journey with your team as you strive to meet your goals.