How to use purpose as a bouncer.

written by  Ryan Seamons

What I’ve been learning

I’ve been learning a lot this week about the use of a defined purpose in our work.

A clear, compelling purpose acts as a bouncer. It’s a filter and a tool. It helps you answer questions like: What should I do? What shouldn’t I do? Who should I invite? And who should I not invite?

Once you’re clear on your purpose and know your story, decisions come easy. (tweet this)

The Art of Gathering, by Priya Parker, centers on the idea that great events happen because they are clear about purpose. Once you know why you’re gathering, tactical decisions flow. A purpose should be specific and disputable.

This applies well beyond events. I use this concept in my work helping teams build products, restructure teams, and develop new services. Understanding Why is of utmost importance in a world of change where imagination is a key differentiator (vs the outdated worlds of industry or information)

But we don’t spend enough time deciding, redeciding, and socializing the purpose. It’s too easy for the purpose to be invisible. Like most communication, it is often assumed.

That’s why writing things down can be a superpower.

It works for product managers:

ryanseamons-1922613Ryan Seamons @ryanseamons

@allisongrayce A similar steadying judo move you should regularly make as a product manager:

Write down in words the purpose and/or goal while everyone is arguing over sketches.

Then ask, “Is this what we’re trying to make happen?“

Easy to forget the why once pictures start looking cool.

And writing down purpose can fuel your work as a parent, people manager, event planner, and others. Here are various formats of questions I find are helpful to write answers to:

  1. Why are we doing this? // What’s the purpose? // What triggered this? // What problem are we solving?

  2. What are we hoping to accomplish?

  3. Are we acting in a way that will get us what we really want?

Slowing down to answer or recalibrate on these questions is key if you want to go fast.

When things get tough, go from the what to the why. (tweet this)

What I published

Product teams need to be aligned (LinkedIn video)

The greatest legacies are built by those who see beyond the bottom line (LinkedIn video)

ryanseamons-1922613Ryan Seamons @ryanseamons

Prototyping can help you learn in hours what would take you months if you build.

It’s incredible to me how often teams take the long way around learning. There’s a better way.

#agile #product #prodmgmt

ryanseamons-1922613Ryan Seamons @ryanseamons

@random_walker Aligned incentives are a magical thing.

So many pieces of enterprise software are ripe for disruption because the buyer isn’t the user.

It takes discipline to build a product the user actually wants to use. The team has to commit to the long term over just the next sale.

ryanseamons-1922613Ryan Seamons @ryanseamons

@johncutlefish Moving chairs around on the titanic.

Activity != Progress

Too many teams have no idea what they are actually trying to achieve. It’s incredible how many teams we work with that goal the first test – asking each team member why they are working on the current effort.

ryanseamons-1922613Ryan Seamons @ryanseamons

@allenholub @hopsoft Good roadmaps manage to outcomes, not outputs. That enables teams autonomy and agility.

Without a roadmap it’s easy for teams to completely miss their purpose and get lost on the other end of the tyranny-anarchy continuum.

Writing down your goals isn’t waterfall.

What have you been learning about?


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About the Author

Ryan Seamons
writes about more human approaches to modern management.

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