Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

...need project management.

(Full disclosure: This post is not about technical communication.)

Our resolutions tend to shape up as long wish lists that detail our individual perceptions of fabulousness and how we deviate from that ideal - rather like the grab bag of cool features that everyone wants to add to a product in its next release. And like that long feature list, our lists of resolutions contain many items that will be dropped, and a couple keepers.

In a product development project, it's OK for features to fall off the must-do list. But when that happens with one of our New Year's resolutions, we feel guilty about it. To make up for it, we make more unrealistic resolutions, fail to keep them, and feel guiltier: Jeez, this same thing happened *last* year! I can't even keep a crappy resolution! I'm a failure because I didn't pay off all my debt, lose 25 pounds, go to the gym three times a week, quit smoking, and write to my mom once a week! I'm a failure! I have to try harder! I know, I'll do charity work and give blood!


In product development, a successful product release usually has just one or two "wow features", along with some minor changes. Try applying this idea to your resolutions.

What's your wow feature for 2010? Pick ONE - just one. Are you going to quit smoking? If you keep that resolution, nothing else matters. The same is true for paying off all your debt, losing 10 pounds or more, or adopting a regular schedule of exercise. Decide to do any one of those things, and if you want it to happen, you'll be able to do it - and make a huge improvement in your life. Try to do more than one of them, and you're likely to fail. So pick one.

If you feel that you should have more than one resolution, pick your "wow resolution" and then make a handful of BS ones that you'll be able to keep without much effort:
I resolve that I will not let my household run out of coffee or beer in 2010.
I resolve that I will put a new roll of toilet paper on the roller if I use the last of the old roll.
I resolve that I will get my car's oil changed in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations.
I resolve that I will always tip at least 20% unless I receive really craptacular service, in which case I'll leave a note explaining why I felt the service was bad.
I resolve that I will put paper in the printer instead of waiting for someone else to do it.

Not all product releases have wow features. Some are just bug-fix releases, which are what they sound like. You could decide that 2010 is a bug-fix year, and not have a wow resolution. How about just a handful of bug-fix resolutions, aka BS resolutions that will be easy to keep?

After 2009, that's an attractive idea, don't you think?