Big rocks first

…the one thing I learned in jail is that money is not the prime asset in life. Time is. Gordon Gekko, Wall Street II

Whilst not universally acclaimed as iconic screenplay, Gordon’s famous quote rings quite nicely with the concept that all of us have the same amount of time in a given week or day or month. It’s all about how you use that time.

At Connected, we’ve been religiously recording time for over 5 years; not in a way to justify our jobs or work to our clients, but because we wanted to understand time and resourcing at a fundamental level. This exercise was finally terminated at the end of last year for a number of reason; some of them should be deeply uncomfortable for many businesses:

  • A hard grafting week sees less than 30 hours of worthwhile delivery. This might occupy almost 50 hours of being at the office;
  • if folks are measured on time then Parkinson’s Law applies;
  • putting the nose to the grindstone is the most wasteful exercise of human capital, ever;
  • timeboxing is a little bit magical
  • little rocks fits around big rocks

Get the big rocks in first

Stephen Covey (RIP) once picked a jar at a seminar and put big rocks to fill that jar up. He then asked , “Do you think you can put more stuff into this?”. The obvious answer is yes but many of us still struggle with the concept. The answer, as you probably knew was to drop gravel into the jar, which settles amidst the big rocks. and then pour sand and finally water. All of which fits into the jar.

The lesson here is not that one can fit more into a given time period; it’s the order that matters. Put your big rocks in first. All businesses rely on the “fit the rocks in” principle and many fail for exactly that reason. A business is a blend of different rocks and getting the priority (read: resource budget) right is critical.

Connected started out life as a sales and marketing company, selling cool ideas (the web, it was 1996 after all) but with little in the way of development resource (we had just two developers back then!). Once we got traction, we were selling the web like it was hot cakes but spent little focus on growing the development side of the business and got into some real client service pickles. To fix this, we threw hundreds of thousands at the development department to find the lack of focus on sales caused sales to tail off. Suddenly we were a development house with little in the way of new sales. Bollox.

Time to restore normal balance; you need sales sales and you need delivery. If you have poor sales then fix the sales issue, don’t cripple development and vice versa. The lesson is that we have to get the clients first. Get clients and the incoming cash flow before you head out to do more marketing, and spend cash on needless things in business.

Timeboxing helps here; understand what you spend your time on and clip the time to the value. Don’t, whatever you do, keep grafting in the hope that things will gte better. They won’t.

By Martin Dower