…and Why It Is Critical —Time Wasted Is Opportunity Lost
This article addresses client-requested meetings during project implementation, but after a thorough Discovery process and a clearly written proposal has been received and accepted and approved…the meetings that can delay, stop or completely redirect work on the project. Internal project management team decision processes are also addressed.
When you chose the life of a freelancer, you have chosen a life of self-management. You are in charge of how you invest your time. As freelancers, we become acutely aware that, “Time is indeed, money” — we are exchanging hours for dollars. People with paychecks, get paid to sit in meeting to mull possibilities. Freelancers are paid for work delivered.
As independent business owners, we have to market and manage our business as well perform to our client’s expectations. In order to do that, a freelancer faces dozens of decisions during the average week. Simplifying our business decision processes can save us both time and money, and with some clients, our sanity.
When we think about the business decision process logically – calling a meeting to discuss the risks, rewards, and challenges of one path versus another, is really is about optimal resource allocation. Before we agree to a meeting, we have to ask is this meeting, with these team members, worth my time, my focus, and the expense to my company? As WordPress Consultants we can’t assume each client-requested meeting is necessary. We need to stop before our auto-yes engages and ask a few questions. Sometimes the project owners just need assurances that can be answered in a phone call or by referencing the project Discovery or Proposal documents.
If the team lead insists on a meeting, ask for a meeting agenda to be sent before the meeting so you can be prepared to answer questions accurately based on existing project stats and benchmarks. Be sure set a defined time limit for your participation in the meeting. Even for a WordPress Consultant who has successfully instituted Value-Based Pricing, hours lost in unproductive, often repetitive meetings can, will, and have, turned a profitable project into a mind-numbing slog to the finish line.
The perfection of planned layout is achieved only by institutions on the point of collapse.
– C. Northcote Parkinson
Here are some processes that can help your project team in simplifying business decisions, reach consensuses more quickly, and move from endless discussion to actual implementation.
Pro Process #1: Restrict the Number of Choices
You can dispell the chaos of choice that leads to analysis paralysis, by pulling your team’s attention from the world of possibilities to the three goals the current project must address. Structure your discussion along the Lean Startup approach. Only look at what is needed to produce the Minimal Viable Project — the most pared down version of a project that can still show proof of concept and satisfy the beta users. Your team’s decisions should be centered around these three considerations.
- Will this MVP deliver enough value for the intended users?
- Does the MVP demonstrate enough future benefit that beta users will be converted into project champions?
- Does the MVP engage the early adopters enough to see the vision or promise the completed project and provide the valuable feedback needed to guide developers forward?
After the production team reviews the feedback from those initial users, they can decide on the final set of features to be developed based on user feedback, not project planners opinion. This methodology is often referred to as the build-measure-learn feedback loop.
If there is a way to delay an important decision, the good bureaucracy, public or private, will find it.
— C. Northcote Parkins
Pro Process#2: Restrict Your Time Investment
Every WordPress freelancer needs to respect the inevitability of Parkinson’s Law. C. Northcote Parkinson was a 20th century British Naval historian, professor, and author of some 60 books. The one you care about is his most famous, Parkinson’s Law, in which he observed that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Parkinson’s law explains the tendency for the amount of work required for something to increase so that it consumes any amount of time that may be allotted to it. The implication to the WordPress consultant trying to manage the time devoted to decision processes of a team is that no matter how carefully you plan your resources, the demands on them will grow to ensure they’re depleted. Parkinson’s law has implications for all areas of our business, including requirements analysis, resource allocation, project timelines and project management. So, be as ruthless as an invading Tartar about restricting the time allocated to the discussion — make a decision and move on and pivot as you proceed with each phase of the project. We are building websites, not negotiating the release of a hostage. Well, actually you are negotiating a hostage release — your own and the other members of your design/build team. Before we leave the topic of managing your time to save your sanity, we need to touch on Parkinson’s less familiar principle, the Law of Triviality, which refers to refers to people’s tendency to devote a large amount of time to unimportant details while essential tasks are not getting the time they require.
When any organizational entity expands beyond 21 members, the real power will be in some smaller body.
— C. Northcote Parkinson
Pro Process#3: Restrict Decision Vetting to a Maximum of Three People
Consulting with more than three people about a pending decision and you have a Monday morning quarterback party- chuck full of could’a, should’a, would’a, but no actionable advice. Three relevant people is a good number to hear both sides of your decision and more than enough to help you filter available opinions to figure out what your path forward. Our old friend Parkinson had a few pithy observations that apply when working with clients who insist on convening decision councils: Reminder: Most of the time when we want an opinion we are looking for confirmation of what we will do regardless. Constantly seeking opinions can be a clear indicator we may not really want something. Which may be a “Client Tell” every WordPress freelancer needs to be watching for and be willing to back away from the engagement.
Notes From WPATX 02-13-2017 Deep Dive Discussion- Simplifying Business Decisions
Sandi and Nick Batik led this Feb. 13, 2017, WPATX Deep Dive Discussion and shared some processes that can help you and your project team in simplifying business decisions, reach consensuses more quickly, and move from endless discussion to actual implementation.
As promised during the presentation, here are some additional resources mentioned in the Austin WordPress WordPress Meetup discussion
Where to Find a Sample Contract for WordPress Freelancers and Consultants
The Contract Killer — Popular Open-Source Contact for Web Developers and Designers
Originally posted in 2008 and updated on March 15th, 2016
Helpful and Informative PodCasts for WordPress Freelancers
Any Podcast in the http://rainmaker.fm/ is outstanding, but these are My personal favorites:
The Digital Entrepreneur — http://rainmaker.fm/series/rainmaker/
Chris Ducker Youpreneur — http://www.chrisducker.com/podcast/
Carrie Dils -OfficeHours — https://officehours.fm/
Books I referenced during our discussions that you might find helpful:
- Ego Is the Enemy — by Ryan Holiday
- The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph — by Ryan Holiday
- Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One — by Jenny Blake
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It — by Michael E. Gerber
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t — by Jim Collins
- An old book about Big Business that has great advice for the independent business owner
- Winning: The Ultimate Business How-To Book — by Jack Welch and Suzy Welch
- This has been a favorite since 2009, it has some of the best people management insights inside found in any book before or since. I really helped me understand the mindset and concerns of our corporate customers
- Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are At To Where You Want to Be — by Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer
- This has been on my bookshelf since 2006. I still reread it frequently and feel it offers more handy advice about how our personal habits relate to just how we manage our businesses than any book I have, and I have a lot of books.