The Paradox of Tactics

The Paradox of Tactics

A two year writing hiatus is best broken by this note – “Tactics will make you soar, but will not keep you air-born.”

Trough-out my career, I have noted, is that tactical work can be contrasted from strategic one in the following way:

Imagine a wheelbarrow, one person inside it, another outside – ready to push it downhill. That push, the construction of the wheelbarrow, the decision to take the leap these will all get you down the hill and moving forward. However, strategy would actually be plotting the path as you hurtle downwards and realizing, mid way, you don’t have a steering wheel.

The truth of the matter is that if you’re not willing to push, there will be no movement. However, without a plan the movement will be short lived as you crash into a ditch.

Build It, Then Tear It Down

The way I have been working to reconcile both of these realizations as of late is via the use of standard operating procedures (SOPs). The purpose is to decide on a:

  1. Workflow – high level
  2. Document tasks, owners, allotted time
  3. Roll it up, simplify the workflow and tasks – editorial work
  4. Quantify (use a reporting system)
  5. Optimize

Once you have a SOP (established flow, clear task ownership and timelines) and a way to quantify the steps and bottlenecks (CRM, Task Management, etc.) you have mapped your tactical tasks.

These quantified tactical lists are now applied into the strategic plan to see if projections are on point or not and how far off we are to reaching the fulfillment of the strategic plan.

Are We There Yet?

After the SOPs are live and performance on them is quantified, it’s time to see what’s wrong. If numbers are off by 20% the path to iterate with the SOPs is clear.

Iterating is done by altering a SOP or product feature, while keeping a control (a/b testing) to see if we are moving forward. To do so, you must plan an experiment which validates or invalidates an assumption you have made, and so:

  1. Write assumption
  2. Define experiment (tweaked SOP, or feature)
  3. Measure results against baseline
  4. Rinse and repeat

If you do not see growth via this method keep in mind that there might is a product to market fit issue.

Listening To The Market

In order to understand your experiments fully, qualitative research must be used. Asking a customer who is experiencing the control or new experiment what they were expecting is useful. Using the “five whys” method, in which you ask “what  were you expecting to see here” once and with each ensuing question ask “why?” will reveal a lot about the value you drive to customers.

What Do I Use?

  1. Task Mapping – Trello.com
  2. SOP Creation – Process.st
  3. Strategic Plan – LeanMonitor.com
  4. Market insight – Intercom.io
  5. Interviews – UserTesting.com
The Low Risk Product Launch

The Low Risk Product Launch

So here it is: that idea that’s so epic that it will have Zukenberg grovelling at your feet. The vision is grand, the solution is needed and so, the chances of getting it to work are close to nil.

Why is the world changing, grand solution such a huge risk? Mostly, in my experience, its because executing it will be so time consuming. As a matter of fact, if you can’t get a version up and running in 2 weeks, don’t bother. And when I say 2 weeks I mean 180 hours.

If your product, solution can’t provide value and entice feedback after 180 hours of work, something here is wrong. Its not that the idea is wrong, its that the risk involved in a long development cycle is going to throw everything off. The market will move, economics will shift, competitors will join and the earth will make one too many a rotation and will throw you off course.

Saw a video by Josh Kopelman seems like a VC with First Round Capital that also invested in my old company Reimage.com. His metaphor is that an entrepanuer needs to be like a heat seeking missile, it has a clear path but can also move and shift based on the targets movements. Well, I agree with Mr. Kopelman, but say this… your chances of hitting are much increased the shorter the distance you need to traverse.

Two weeks do that, they set a very actionable, very tight and very effective time-frame to plan, build execute and gauge response from your market. No point building the world largest crossbow when gunpowder is right around the corner, right?

This is my new principle with projects… productivity has certainly improved so far… now I am waiting for the results…

The $5000 Startup

The $5000 Startup

Building a new new concept based on open source software can be very affordable. Start with planning, start at a high level of the funnel… do a drill down per phase (sign-up, log-in, product page, etc.), then once that’s worked out a high level, comes mock-up time (see Balsamiq as a great affordable solution) (I work with Amit Daliot who makes Axure protopying, about $2000, depending on complexity). Get a solid designer ($500). Final step: theming, I just love PSD2HTML (+$1500).

The video below shows the first phase of getting it done.