This post is written by Guthrie Weinschenk, J.D., Chief Operating Officer at The Team W, Inc.
Giving your project a grade before you start working on it will improve your efficiency and the outcome of the project. Take a few seconds to decide whether the project is going to be an A- or A+ project. Let me explain what I mean.
There are two types of projects in the world : A- or A+. These are the grades you’d get if you turned your project in for grading.
If you decide to do your project to the A- level, then here is what you are striving for:
- Get the job done
- Fast, efficient, solid.
- This doesn’t mean sloppy work, it’s good work, but it’s efficient
- Everyone is happy, project is finished, move on
- You maximize quality and effort, aka, when measuring marginal effort returns, once the quality per effort unit starts to dip, stop and try and finish as fast as is quality possible (economics!)
- Maximize your skills, do what you are best so you can work as quickly and efficiently as you can
- Wrap the project up, be happy with your A- grade, and MOVE ON. Get working on the next project asap. When you prioritize a project as A-, it frees up time and effort for more and better things. You have lots to do! Get moving!
The second type is an A+ project. A+ projects require you and your team to go above and beyond:
- They take twice as much time/effort as an A- project (seriously, TWICE as much)
- At the end you and your team are proud of what you have done
- Pore over every detail, make everything as great as it can possibly be
- Blow everyone away with the quality, ingenuity, and perfection of the end result
- Maximize your quality variable alone (economics)! Disregard the amount of effort, aka, ignore marginal effort returns until they are negative (until more work/time makes the quality worse, which will happen eventually)
- Make this your passion, and everyone will feel your passion in the result
Sometimes all that is required is an A- project, like finishing those darn TPS reports. If you turn in an A+, no one cares. Maybe a boss pats you on the back, but the world moves on. Remember, A+ effort takes twice as long. Your boss and company would much rather see you turn in two projects if all he or she needs is an A-, than an A+. Use this to your advantage.
Sometimes you need to do A+ work, like making a Pixar film. If you make something great, the quality of the end result continues paying dividends for you and your team for (hopefully) years to come. It will be a shining light that people measure you by, and something that you and your team look back on with pride.
Some companies need every scrap of work to be A+, and give their employees the flexibility to make it happen. But for most companies that’s not true, and even if they say everything SHOULD be A+, they don’t provide enough time and resources to their employees to make that a reality. For most people in the corporate world, the reality is that there is rarely enough time for any projects to be A+, and A- work is good enough for everyone to be happy.
The worst thing you can do?: “A” grade work — Work is usually fairly inefficient. A lot of time and effort is expended that is usually wasted. A lot of people do A work, right in the middle. You put in a bit more time and effort to try and make everything an A+, but you don’t have the time and effort to actually get there. Or you do get to A+ work, but no one cares because really only A- work was needed. Or even worse, you run out of time, and have to turn in C+ work (everyone knows it’s crap but get it out the door asap).
By identifying if a particular project (or part of a project) is A+, or A-, ahead of time, you and your team will be much more efficient. And by emphasizing more A- projects, you free up time, creativity, and energy to make the next A+ project that much better. You’ll get more done, and the quality work that people pay attention to will be that much better. You’ll have more time to ensure you don’t end up with a C+ project. You will further enhance the quality of the work you do.
Give it a try… But probably an A- try, you have other stuff to do and blogs to read! Enjoy.