24 July 2018

On Focus

I’m struggling to stick to a plan…

(Caveat: I’m writing this in under 30 minutes, ignoring my previous format, and listening to Deftones. There’s definitely a better version I could write with links and stuff. That’s not this.)

After a plan to journal every week, it’s now been over two weeks since I last wrote anything.

I’ve been beating myself up about it - I mean how hard can it be to write something quick, an update on what I’m working on? After all, things definitely are happening. I’ve added a dozen more frameworks to progression.fyi, I’m working on defining what a paid pilot might look like for a few companies here in London, and I’m having good conversations with some people who might be able to help me build out the rest of an MVP.

So why no writing?

The truth is, I haven’t felt like there has been much to write about. Mainly I think that’s due to lack of focus. One day I’m running at developing my MVP scope, the next I’m worrying about whether an info-product is the best start point and shelving a Saas product is the right thing to do right now. One week I’m all over solving the maker’s problems, the next I’m focused on a manager ‘painkiller’ product.

While there’s only me (and I want to keep it that way) I’m starting to realise that self discipline, something I’ve in part always been able to offload to a structure around me, is going to be the most important part of my success.

Why a struggle for focus?

I think in part, I’m still weaning myself off a manager’s schedule.

Being a manager is a reactive role. You’re in large part doing a good job if you’re there to firefight, to protect your team, to be the voice of that team in other people’s meetings.

Those things I got so frustrated about, working in larger organisations in those roles, I have unwittingly let shape me. I would crave the ability to just run at something without the piecemeal fractured set of responsibilities I had. But that was my security blanket.

I’ve always been proud of a bias to action on my part, but a few years of being a firefighter and servant manager to a team has weakened that muscle. I can still do, and do fast, but the part of me that is able to prioritise fast on the fly and then close off those other distractions to allow me to execute, is frankly a little wobbly. In practice this means that committing to any single path for long enough to make real progress is proving problematic.

Now I don’t have a firehose of incoming fires, I have to create the fires myself. And that’s kind of scary.

Sound familiar?

This all drives to one of the core problems I want to solve. A manager’s diary is very different to a makers diary, and a managers mind very different to a makers mind. Yet so many makers not only see management as the only path to seniority, but idolise that path. The fact is, you’re not just taking on responsibility in one direction, but you’re giving up just as much, and setting off down a path which, if you truly get energy from your craft, will give you less paid time to do that thing you love.

It’s really important that that difference in output is illustrated and that decision to go into a people-facing role is a deliberate one with a clear alternative. In no team of makers should there be a ‘the only way up is management’ dilemma (or at least, if there is then people should be able to leave.)

Makers who don’t enjoy managing people don’t make good managers. Often the best managers aren’t the most senior makers. The set of attributes that make a good manager aren’t visible in code, or UI.

More on this in another post. Back to me.

As for my focus, having someone next to me who is invested as I am is going to help. So I’m on the (slow) lookout for a co-founder and will write somewhat of a job description in due course. In the meantime, hit me up if you know someone who might be interested.

And please do reach out if you’re reading this and can relate. If you’re a maker faced with a move to management, or a manager who misses the craft, or you’re building something yourself and need someone to bounce ideas off (reciprocated, of course). I’m all ears.

Oh, I also joined wip.chat to make my to-do’s public. Might be worth a gander.