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How to Deliver Anything

Trust the process over tools; value feedback loops, simplicity, and adaptability; and harness small rewards for motivation

2 min read
How to Deliver Anything
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Before Growth is a weekly column about startups and their builders prior to product–market fit.

This doesn’t matter

  • Whether you use Scrum, XP, or lean
  • How long your sprints are
  • The size of your team
  • If you choose JIRA, Basecamp, or Slack
  • How many emails you have in your inbox
  • Deciding between React, Vue, or Angular
  • The story points you assign to user stories…
  • …or even if you write user stories at all
  • Your quarterly plans—Excel is the world’s most popular software for writing fiction1
  • Multi- or mono-tasking
  • Doing focus groups
  • Industry news from Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or Hacker News
  • How busy you say you are

This matters

  • Showing up and getting to work2
  • Ending every work cycle with a clear milestone or deliverable, however small, to keep the momentum up
  • Staying within budget
  • Being able to negotiate scope even late in development
  • Killing your darlings even if you don’t want to
  • Rough consensus
  • Reducing information asymmetry
  • Getting and giving feedback fast
  • Getting real as soon as possible by showing examples, sketches, or prototypes
  • Working in self-sustaining feedback loops3
  • Understanding why your audience or customers think they want something and when they got that idea
  • Aiming to deliver earlier than possible—learn to overshoot on purpose4
  • Accepting the half-life of joy—do as much as you can when morale’s high; acknowledge and anticipate that the finish is always going to be tough
  • Working more on good days and less on bad days5
  • Practicing speed as a habit
  • “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and can’t be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system.”6

  1. Of course, the paradox is that plans are worthless, but planning is everything—only if you practice planning often can you learn to re-plan on the fly.
  2. Writers say: “I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank page.”
  3. Have you ever wondered why most programmers like their work so much? A hello world is the world’s greatest feedback loop. Just type some code. Does it work? If it doesn’t, type some more until it does. When it finally works, you feel pumped. Constant small rewards bring motivation.
  4. When I was a kid, my football coach used to have us try and shoot the woodwork; we all failed and scored on goal instead—which was obviously what he wanted in the first place.
  5. Cab drivers strive for a certain amount of income each day, and once they hit that target, they stop. On good days, a typical cabbie knocks off earlier. But if cabbies worked longer on good days and finished eariler on bad days, they’d earn 15% more.
  6. Systemantics: How Systems Really Work and How They Fail by John Gall, General Systemantics Press, 2002
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Kamil Nicieja

I guess you can call me an optimist. I build products for fun—I’m a startup founder, author, and software engineer who’s worked with tech companies around the world.

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