What Do You Optimize For?

My friends and colleagues tell me that audio books are a Big Deal. I believe them, although I still read in ebook and paper. So, I had audio books made for Predicting the Unpredictable and Agile and Lean Program Management.

Predicting doesn’t have too many images. Agile and Lean Program Management has a ton of images. I have a guideline that’s almost a rule: Show people what they can do, so they don’t have to interpret too much. This guideline/rule means I tell stories in my books and create images so you can see possibilities.

I optimize my books for visuals. That makes sense for ebook or print. For audio? Not so much.

I do have reader resources for the books on my site and on the audio page. That’s not terrific, but it’s adequate. It’s the best I know how to do, given the subject matter.

In these books, I optimized for reading, not listening. I made that choice.

We optimize for different aspects in our lives and projects. I optimize for ease of living in my life. I have assistive devices: rollators, canes, plastic things to open jars with, and more. If I need an assistive device, I get it. (Okay, there’s probably a monetary limit here, but so far, I’ve been able to afford everything.) You might make different choices because you might not need assistive devices. (I hope not!)

We trade off aspects of our projects. I’m big on the project pyramid for projects, trading off: people and their capabilities, project cost, project environment, feature set, low defects, and release date. One of those drives the project. The rest you trade off.

Our optimizations drive  our actions.

If we optimize for project cost, we can create a project environment that allows us to deliver finished features, if we also manage how we discover and fix defects. I prefer an agile or an incremental approach, because when you finish features, you can release when you finish a feature.

If we optimize for project environment, such as when we start an agile approach, we will act to create a collaborative environment. It’s not that features, cost, release date, etc are not important. They are. And, the learning in creating a project environment is more valuable for now, than the rest of the project aspects.

I help people learn with my non-fiction books. I optimize for learning, and so far, with the words on a page. The words on the page have the most value, so far. I am still not sure how to optimize for both audio and print. As I write my memoir, I can optimize for the experience—which will translate to both page and audio. That is a different kind of book. (My fiction is all about the story, so I don’t have to choose there, either.)

That is the question this week: What do you optimize for?

2 thoughts on “What Do You Optimize For?”

  1. This is a good question. One concept I’ve been pushing in my Agile software development team for the past few sprints is for the developers to optimize the performance of the TEAM instead of optimizing the performance of the INDIVIDUAL. For example, if we’re near the end of the sprint, and I have a choice of starting a new story or doing a code review for someone else’s story, MY productivity is best served by starting that new story. The TEAM’s productivity is best served by doing the code review for my teammate, both so that story will get closed, and because I’m not handing a story to QA to test at the end of the sprint, adding to their burden.

    At the company level, everyone assumes you must focus on maximizing shareholder profit, which is common, but doesn’t have to be the case. I wrote a blog post about that at http://www.thekramers.net/wordpress/index.php/20151021/what-does-your-company-maximize/ if you’re interested.

    1. David, fist-pump, yes!! Too many people don’t realize agile requires flow efficiency, not resource efficiency. That is, we win when we increase the team’s throughput, not any individual’s throughput.

      In the updated edition of Manage Your Project Portfolio, I discuss strategy. Making money is not a strategy. Making money arises from executing some other strategy, some of which you described in your post.

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