Monday, December 03, 2007

Maintaining Sense of Mission

There's a large difference when we do things with a sense of mission. It gives an exhilarating sensation that put what you do in a context. It generate a very different level of focus and suddenly we'll have a very different way of deciding what to do first, what to discard, what should be set aside for later. A decision is happening in a much more instant way than what we commonly do. Insights seems to flow easily.

It's a tricky thing to do though. It seems human has a tendency to forget their mission :). This will result in "drifting" mode where things go slowly, inefficient, low productivity (if not contra-productive).

What makes this sense strong and what make it weak?. I think it's a hard question to answer, It could be a leadership, an urgency, honor and many other things. But despite all the ideology side, on the practical side it could be this : the longer the feedback cycle the weaker the sense of mission will become. Put a person in a never ending task and he'll probably goes numb, then add the task with more impossible tasks, he'll probably strangle himself to death :). What we need to do to strengthen this is then to shorten the feedback cycle to keep the fire up.

Shortening feedback cycle takes a lots of forms, for example in XP there are practices like standup meeting, iteration, TDD. The baseline is to connect what we do with a larger picture in a regular basis, regular enough (and discipline enough) to avoid us from drifting away. If we feel drifted, it's a sign there's a feedback loop need fixing.

When a person team loose direction what needs to be done in short time is to place achievable milestones. When coding loose direction, pick the shortest working condition and get that way, if it's not possible, just rewrite small piece or do whatever things that you could that actually able to make something run.

Sense of mission takes what we do to a different level of effectivity. It's like shifting gears in our action or on the team action. Shortening feedback cycle could help us maintain it while let things drifted away would drag us away with it.

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