Features and functions are easy to obsess over. They are tangible. You can click a button and it does something. Or not, at least not what you expect. And you can obsess about why not and what it should be doing.
I’ve been included in countless enterprise technology adoption programs and find this the most focused on area. This and plans. Plans are also easy to obsess over. You can move dates, tasks, people responsible, etc. Again this is a tangible area of activity, or seemingly so.
It’s the the difference between deep work and shallow work that Cal Newport covers in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
In my view the feature and function work and also the planning work is shallow work. Which is not to say it’s unnecessary. It must be done and is critical for success. But it plays a small part. Currently the majority of the effort sits here and accounts for a small part of success in my humble opinion. It should be the other way round.
Deep work is the human behaviour work. Thinking how to change it. The strategic work that takes you out of the shallows and the weeds. The creative, imaginative work that forces you to think about where you are going.
Its easy to see why the feature, function and plan work is the work that dominates. You can easily avoid confrontation on difficult people work when there is a plethora of functions to play with or talk about. You can spend endless hours discussing why something does or doesn’t do something or even playing with it.
Questioning why you are doing something that may not be working or taking responsibility and hard decisions for needed changes. Understanding misalignment to a broader purpose. This is impossible when your head is stuck in the nuts and bolts of features and functions.
How to avoid the trap?
- Have a long term vision that you can look up to and that can steer you. It shouldn’t be immovable, indeed have an approach that allows for course correction like this one I created: Lean startup methodology applied to successful enterprise technology adoption. You’ll notice this approach starts with vision setting.
- Make specific time for the deep work, even put some rules in place so that you cannot digress into feature, function and planning work until it’s time to.
- Show the trap. Paint a picture of it and share why you need to avoid it. If people are aware of behaviours and activities that are not leading to productive outcomes in the context of the bigger picture, they can avoid them.
- Stop and reflect on where you are and what is important from time to time. It will allow you to see the wood from the trees. You could start meetings by reminding everyone of the purpose of your overall work and what to prioritise.
- Be outcomes focused instead of things focused. Always think about what the result of something is and this will help you talk less about features/functions. This also requires a healthy focus on measurement and being data driven.