The Discipline of Tiny Steps

Moving back burner projects forward can be difficult. By reseting our expectations and managing our work carefully, it is possible to make progress though!

In mid-2018, I had an idea. Wouldn't it be cool, I thought, to make it easy for people to learn about wines with their friends in the comfort of their own homes? I have some friends who are wine importers and, after a quick conversation one evening, LeBox.wine was born. By Christmas of that year, we were shipping boxes of 3 wines to people all over Germany with the information and accouterment needed to do a blind tasting at home.

In February of 2019, my lovely wife and I had a beautiful baby girl. So much for the wine business.

We, like most parents, spent a few months being completely sleep-deprived as we took care of the newest member of our family and our 1-year-old. Our partners had lots of wine to import and events to plan so LeBox.wine went on the back burner.

Sound familiar? Most of us have some nagging projects that are important to us or have huge potential, but we just can't find the time to move them forward.

Fast forward to several weeks ago. We had dinner with our friends and we reminisced about how much fun (and work!) it was launching LeBox. We all continue to be busy but I made a suggestion that we adopt Scrum to manage our work and, more importantly, reset our expectations regarding progress. The idea was to get a little bit done each week and truly ship when we're at critical mass, however long that takes.

Working with non-IT types has been an interesting cultural experience I should write about in more depth sometime. However, they've taken to Scrum readily and, believe it or not, we're getting things done! The site is back on the air (in German only for now) and, most importantly, we are getting little tasks done every week (we haven't missed a sprint review/planning yet!). Instead of getting an entire brochure done, some of us commit to completing a paragraph. Instead of designing a marketing campaign, someone agrees to create an outline (or part of an outline!).

I must admit, resetting our previously binary perception of working on LeBox (either working really hard or doing nothing) wasn't easy. It took us a couple of weeks to begin celebrating our little victories. We learned, however, that if something is important but not critical, it's better to make a little, consistent progress than not do anything at all. Warning: It is far more difficult that it seems. That's where the discipline comes in.

So what is at the top of your backlog of efforts that deserve some attention but aren't getting any? Do you have an opportunity to reset your ambitious expectations and accept a steady crawl instead of a mad dash? I can tell you confidently that it can be rewarding. We're looking forward to hearing about your experiences!