A few weeks ago, I told you how we do at Kypseli to avoid working on the go. We included an analysis step to the task before we start executing.

This was one of the key improvement points to avoid working by inertia. However, there was one more point: Working like a headless chicken.

We all know the colloquial expression “go like a headless chicken”, which is used to indicate a situation where a person moves not knowing where or what for. This expression is also applicable to work (and to life in general). There are so many cases of people working without a clear objective!

In short, working by inertia.

Messy workplace
Robert Bye – Unsplash

Working like a headless chicken

When I talk about “working like a headless chicken”, I mean that we work without thinking too much about the goal of the tasks. We may be working like a headless chicken despite doing a pre-task analysis.

Hasn’t it ever happened to you that you don’t stop to think about the objective of a task? For example, I have to make a website. I get to it directly. I put a cool cover and the typical sections: product, about us and contact. Done. Another example, a simple banner. We get on with it. Characteristics and price of an offer. We put the price to attract attention, a beautiful image and a good composition. Done.

Hasn’t it ever happened to you that you finish a task and you realize that we will need that written document in an uncertain future (which may not even arrive)? Or worse, that the work done does not correspond to what we needed? For example, we begin to define how our entire product is going to be, all the functionalities that it’s going to have, each step that the user is going to take. But in the end it turns out that the user simply wants only one of those features. Whoops.

Messy paint
Alice Dietrich – Unsplash

All of these examples have the same problem. And this is one level above. Even before we think how we are going to approach the task and what steps we are going to take, we need to know why we do what we do, and even question whether this is necessary for our goal.

Failing to take this step leads to wasting more time and effort even than “working on the go.” You may even have to redo everything from scratch because the task was poorly planned and the work done is useless.

From top to bottom

To avoid these problems, we have to think why the task is where it is and why we do it. What is the final objective of the task and what value does it provide globally. In the end, we have many tasks to complete and limited time and resources, so we will have to prioritize the most valuable tasks. That is, those that have a greater impact to achieve our goal.

From the outset, this starts with the way we make decisions. Not just from a company, but also from a team. And to know how to prioritize our efforts, we must know what the value of our work is.

“Which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where.”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go”

Alice and the Cheshire Cat

Value is relative. Just as a product may be valuable to one person and not to another, a solution may or may not be valuable depending on the problem and the situation. To know what is of value to us, we will have to analyze where we want to go. What our objective and the context are. From there, we can make decisions that lead us to that goal and even break that path down into smaller milestones.

Planning the way to go

Once our objectives are defined, we have a goal and all we have to do is draw the path we want to follow. Every step, every milestone, every task, will help us achieve our goals.

From the very first moment, everything starts with the way we make decisions. If our objective is on an island, it isn’t the same to build a ship when you have reached the sea or on the way.

In the end, in order to reach our goal we have many tasks to complete and limited time and resources. So we will have to prioritize the most valuable tasks. That is, those that have the greatest impact at the right time to achieve our goal.

Pedro Kummel – Unsplash

Integrate it into the work process

However, there’s a problem. From the moment the importance of the tasks is decided until they are executed, it can take a while and the context can change (a lot). So it will be convenient to double check, review that roadmap and re-questioning our path and our tasks. Even reprioritizing if necessary, always with the objective in mind.

Each task we complete will have to be one more step to reach our goal. Each task must provide value to us.

Alexander Milo – Unsplash

How we do it

At Kypseli, to verify that we are taking steps to reach our goal, we measure indicators that show us results of the work we are doing.

To make sure that the path we are taking is correct, we have weekly meetings to reprioritize the tasks we have, assuming that what was important for the previous week doesn’t have to be necessarily important for this one as well.

Finally, we include in each task why we do it. Including that extra step and verbalizing the value that what we do brings helps us remember our goal and how what we do helps achieve it.

Motivation = Productivity

Realizing the value of what we are doing helps us motivate ourselves.

In addition to avoiding worthless work, analyzing what value each task we perform contributes, increases motivation. As we already commented, motivation is a factor that drives productivity.

When we are aware that the result of our work is valuable and we see how it affects global results, we feel more involved in the team, boosting motivation.

It is also very easy to fall back

In spite of everything, even being aware of all this, it isn’t difficult to fall back when we work by inertia and under a routine. (Hasn’t it happened to all of you driving that you take a direction or an exit that you usually take when not playing?)

I personally have a long way to go. Even to this day, I find myself taking for granted that a task is important directly or moving into execution phase because “I know how I am going to do it.” But if I look back, I can see a big improvement. Turning those little details into habits is the continuous improvement we seek. And being aware of the problem is the first step to achieve change.

Justin Kauffman – Unsplash

I encourage you to share your experiences with us to observe other points of view as well.