Once upon a time I was with a number of colleagues and my then-boss, who had just come out of a meeting with the CEO. “He wants us to improve our reporting,” he said, “He has a number of ideas.” This didn’t appear to be good news, as it was creating more work and suggested a lack of trust. One of my colleagues replied, “This wouldn’t happen if we delivered reliably.”
My colleague had made a very important observation. There are lots and lots of things an engineering or product team can be doing, and doing better—reporting, demonstrating, collaborating, researching… But all of that is peripheral if we don’t fix Job Number One, and that’s delivering.
I’ve mentioned this before in the context of individuals who want more of a say in how our organisation works. But it’s true at the departmental level, too.
What can be frustrating—as in this case—is when we don’t notice the real problem, and we take our current mode of under-delivery for granted. When that happens we can get what happened here, which is dissatisfaction aimed at the wrong source. We end up with more process from someone trying to fix the wrong problem. That only makes the problem worse because now we have less time to address the core issue.
At least this time my colleague recognised what really needed fixing. Job Number One is delivery.