Dallas Read   |   Strive for progress

Slice thinly and release now

Work in tiny chunks to give others the opportunity to interact with your work-in-progress and to sustain your momentum.

You have a project. You have a business. You have a business that depends on the success of your project. You have a deadline. Pressure, pressure, pressure.

A million questions rise:

  • How do you decide what to work on?
  • What timelines do you try to hit?
  • How do you decide when to stop the work?
  • How do you decide whether to continue the work when the deadline comes and goes?
  • Who will work on what?
  • What do you prioritize?

There are libraries of books that offer some solutions, but I’d like to propose one simple trick to meet the demands: slice thinly and release now. Here is the train of thought:

  1. Everything can be broken down.
  2. Your customers already have something in their hands.
  3. Identify a tiny slice of work that improves what is already in your customers’ hands.

Now, let’s explore a different scenario to derive another reason to slice thinly and release now.

Imagine we take the business pressure off for now and just replace it with day-to-day reality. You know the stuff: being interrupted to review a document, pinged to get your feedback on a new feature, pairing on some code, an idea sparks with a shiny new opportunity, or perhaps an emergency knocks on the door. Or perhaps we’re talking about a side project that you only have the chance to work on once in a while?

If you’ve laid out a massive master plan of new infrastructure flow charts and THEN get interrupted for a couple hours or even days… you’re toast. Your inertia is gone. 100 — 0 in no time.

If you’ve built in tiny slices with one tiny step in front of the other, all your options are remain open. If you need to switch your focus for any reason, the tiny slice is only a tiny ways from being released. If it doesn’t get released, it isn’t a big deal because there hasn’t been such a massive sunk cost. What’s more — any of your team members can pick up the next tiny slice with minimal time to get “up to speed”.

There’s a bit of an art to crafting what the next most important thin slice should be. I find “thinking from the business perspective” gives the best clarity because it takes things like scarcity and risk into the equation. This often comes in the form of “What is the next looming deadline?”

The final benefit of slicing thinly and release now is that you have time to collect feedback. Opportunity for feedback is critical for any endeavour.

What is the tiny thing that you can release today that makes the world a better place? It won’t be perfect, but consider your customers’ perspective. That tiny slice could be just the feature they need; compare to their current baseline, not the ideal! You can perfect it later. Compared to the baseline of what is already out there, what tiny thing can you improve today?

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