Execute a Plan Vs. Execute With Agility

Do you love plans? Do you consider them as blueprint for your execution? Do you think that the more perfect your plan, better your chances of success?

Execute a Plan Vs. Execute With Agiliy

Consider the following tale which is true unfortunately:

In 2011, Rick founded his startup with an aim of developing a Mobile App that he thought will change the world.

He hired a consultant to create a Business Plan for his startup and paid a hefty fee to her.

He ensured that he executes as per the business plan he got created for his dream startup.

Estimated App Development time was about 40 weeks. He tracked the development and ensured that each feature he envisioned of having is included in the App.

When the development was about to get over, he started executing his marketing and promotional activities as per the business plan.

He got Press Releases written and bought premium press release plans so that his App can generate good traction in media.

He contacted App Review Sites and opened a negotiation dialogue with them. He hired video creation experts to create video commercials for the App that were to be uploaded in different video sites such as YouTube and Vimeo.

And came the Launch Friday. A perfect day. Weekend was about to follow and lot of people should be using the App as they have ample time to play with their iPhones.

He launched the App with all positives: positive press, good reviews, video commercials live on YouTube and Vimeo, Search Optimized Website for his App, a comprehensive FAQ section about how a particular feature could be used and more.

The result? 2000 downloads at the end of first day.

Good, isn’t it?

He thought his App is now going to be successful. He was relieved. He went off  to weekend outing with his girlfriend to celebrate. He wanted to have an extended weekend. Monday was his first day off in past 40 weeks.

On Tuesday, when he returned from his weekend outing, he was keen to check how the App users are doing. So he opened his Analytics Software.

And …

He found a sad metric about the App: DAU (Daily Active Users) – they were just in two digits. The number was much less than 99.

Desperate as he also checked Monday’s downloads and they were just 7.

Just 7 new App downloads. Not even in two digits.

ALAS!

He observed the same pattern for next whole week.

He searched about his App’s prime keywords over web to figure out that one person had tweeted about his app saying – XYZ App sucks. ABC app which came a few months earlier does a much better job than this.

His app was not getting any good downloads. Users who had already downloaded the App were not using it.

He perfectly executed the project as planned and still this result. What went wrong?

THE ASSUMPTION!

The core assumption was that people need such an App, turned out to be wrong.

The problem was that he PERFECTLY executed the project as per the business plan. He did not question it till he experience his first failure. 

Lot of hard work. Demotivated Rick. Failure at a higher cost. What a waste.

And, let me tell you that, Rick is not the only one who has passed through similar situation.

Stop and reflect on what Steve Blank, who is considered an extremely respected authority in startup world:

“In a startup, no business plan survives first contact with customers.”

How true!

But wait, what does it mean? Business Plans are useless?

No.

I don’t think Business Plans are useless. Plans are good when things are right. The problem is, we don’t know what’s right till it is proved as the RIGHT thing!

It’s okay to create business plans. It’s okay to talk from the perspective of business plans with potential investors and other stakeholders.

But …

But, it’s not okay to presume that your business plan is THE BLUEPRINT, upon which you should base execution of your startup.

In startup, Business Model Discovery is much bigger problem than mere executing a business plan.

Business Plans often work well in corporate world because in their operations frequency of change and uncertainties are less. They have discovered the business model. Their chief problem is execution and good amount of their focus is on efficiency.

But with startups, your ability to deal with an uncertain next while you’re discovering a business model that will for your startup is much needed skill than having an MBA degree from a reputed university.

If you’re working in a startup, whether it is a technology oriented startup or not, master the art of Agile Business Model Discovery.

Inspect regularly and adapt timely. Ship fast and ship often. Involve customers early and seek their feedback. Don’t focus on perfecting a product until you have identified a business model. Try different product ideas, Create lot of MVPs and ensure that you’re keeping costs of creating MVPs as low as possible.

Keep your mind steady and your actions…AGILE!

The sooner you’ve discovered the Business Model, the better the chances of your startup to see its 1001th day of existence :)

Once you’ve discovered the business model for your startup, you are no longer just a startup. You’re a growing company. A company where inputs, processes and outputs are predictable. This is where good MBAs can help you establish the processes and bring out the best possible efficiency out of the resourcing.

Enter Rick’s story again, a better choice for him would have been to create a non functional version of his app, contact at least 100 potential users and seek their feedback. Had his idea been invalidated, he would have invested in some another idea and would not have wasted weeks and weeks of his time.

In closing, I cannot agree more with what Steve Blank says, “When you’re building a startup, get out of your building, there are no facts in it!”

(Random) Never 12

Never …

  1. Hand over an App to your client which is not tested well;
  2. Establish the expectation about who you are not, you’re not going to deliver it;
  3. Try to prove that you were RIGHT and offer supporting “facts” that don’t matter at the receiver’s end;
  4. Drink and drive;
  5. Ever underestimate the power of good UI;
  6. Do something because you feel it is right. Instead do what is right;
  7. Play while you work or work while you play;
  8. Say Die, Instead, say “Die Another Day!”;
  9. Choose any other phone over iPhone. If you don’t have an iPhone, YOU DON’T HAVE AN IPHONE! (Now this one is biased, we develop iPhone Apps  which have got thousands of users:) )
  10. Keep thinking for too long. If you want to do something for long, act!
  11. Ignore what Nicholas Bate has to say. It has value. A lot of.
  12. Never say, “Never!”

…because it is either NOW or NEVER. When it comes to getting it done, NOW is much better than NEVER.

How to Find Out if Your Behaviour is Right?

Every behaviour gets something done …

… or delays something that is to be done.

Every word you speak, every sentence you write, every piece of code you test, every story you tell has only one purpose – to get something done.

Purpose of your behaviour is NOT to showcase your skills, your knowledge of the facts or standards to be confirmed to, or whether you’re smart or committed.

Purpose of your behaviour is also not to prove if you were RIGHT or wrong.

Purpose of your behaviour is simple: it is to figure out/carry out/push forward/facilitate what you are going to do to get the ONE, most important thing done. The most important thing is the ONLY thing that matters out of hundreds of things that lie with it on your (and your organization’s) to-do platter.

If you want to argue, argue about how you can make it better.

If you want to disagree, show the value that your disagreement would bring.

But if your expression brings the negative energy in just to PROVE your point, then everyone loses.

It is a waste…it is a waste of your time; and it is a waste of the receiver’s time. It’s a waste for a simple reason: IT DOES NOT GET ANYTHING DONE.

If your expression does not get things done, it is of no use.  Since it is of no use, how can it be right?

The ONLY right behaviour is what contributes in making the most important thing done. At least in the start-ups, and did I mention that YOU are also a start-up called YOU Inc.?

 

 

Who Is Chief Hypnotizer In Your Team?

When creating an App, it’s apparent that a professional company will build an A-Team. The team will have:

  • Engineers who are crazy about what they produce.
  • An Architect whose  vision will make all the difference.
  • A Project Manager who will manage the development project.
  • A legal advisor who will ensure that you don’t break any copyrights, infringe patents and don’t break any other laws.
  • A finance guy who’ll own the “cost” thing and ensure that the App is ROI positive.
  • A marketing girl who knows the art of Jabs and hooks and will make the hell out of marketing the App via cross promotion channels, direct deals, social promotions and so on.

And a few more guys and gals who will do what it takes to make an A-team.

hypnotise

But the question is, will they all run on their own?

Certainly not. You’ll need a Chief Hypnotizer.

Yes, Chief Hypnotizer!

Not just a get-it-done guy, or the one who’ll survive the project and will shift the ownership on someone else successfully, the one who’ll hypnotize all the A-list team members, push their limits and make an App that will be not only be loved by people, be used by them in such a way that will make the Company reach its goals.

So the question is, in your A-Team, who’s the Chief Hypnotizer? If you can’t answer it in next 10 seconds, then it is an opportunity for you to be one, no matter what other role you’re playing …

Cool Idea, Crappy App

When someone is using an App that is not easy for him to use, the App features and other benefits suddenly disappear.

You need to be absolutely clear and specific about the user experience your App provides in order to make your App not only understood by its users but loved.

The thing is, just about every mobile user uses one or the other crappy App. It is “crappy” because it doesn’t match their expectation.

As an App Developer, your ability to convey that your App is not crappy is not as powerful as you think it is.

Your App will be criticized. If it is critical that your App users loves your App, keep no stones unturned to have your App offer an experience that not only your users expect but make them feel wow!

If it is not critical that your user loves your App then what’s the point of creating such an App?

Because you had a “cool” idea? A cool idea is cool only when it is conveyed in a way that your Apps users want to experience it. It is worthless otherwise. Think for yourself.

Don’t Wish a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

The new year has begun and we keep getting messages from almost everyone we know that they wish us Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Mechanically, we also wish a ton of people the same. The question is, have we ever given enough attention to our that act?

Perhaps no.

No?

We all know this. Out of hundreds of Happy New Year messages, only a few are really coming from the heart, rest all are coming out of just formalities.

Does formalities matter?

happy new year

To me, they don’t. So, if you don’t feel it, you don’t need to fake it.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with wishing well for someone. In fact, it is a divine act.

If the wishes are not coming from your heart, what you are giving away is your inauthentic self.

Does anyone want that?

No?

Wish me happy new year only if you mean it genuinely and it is reflection of your authentic self. I value is a lot.

Think for yourself and let’s begin a stunning 2014!