Starting Well

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The longer I wander around this planet, the more I see the importance of starting well.

This is one of those things that’s totally obvious when you start talking about it, but can often get slippery when you try to put it into practice.

I mean, we all know at an intellectual level to eat a good breakfast. If you haven’t read at least half a dozen articles in the past six months alone about they importance of breakfast, then you haven’t been online much. And every time you read an article about the importance of breakfast, it’s accompanied by statistics on how many people skip breakfast, or eat something that doesn’t nourish them properly. If you start the day with Chocolate Covered Sugar Bombs and a can of carbonated high-fructose caffeine, you know the rest of the day is liable to go downhill, and quickly, as your blood sugar levels spike and then plummet, with little chance of recovery.

Eating a good breakfast ties into a lot of other habits, like getting a good night’s sleep so you can wake up early enough to make breakfast; shopping so that you have good food in your pantry; even earning enough money so that you can buy fresh, healthy food.

Reasons people skip breakfast, or eat fast-but-deadly breakfast foods:

  • I don’t have time.
  • I don’t have anything in the house to eat.
  • I’m trying to lose weight.

We see clients repeating these same patterns in website projects, except instead of skipping breakfast, they’re skipping the crucial first phase of the project during which we explore the business and technical requirements and get to know the client so that we can channel their needs into a useful finished product.

“I don’t have time” translates into creating arbitrarily tight deadlines.

“I don’t have anything in the house to eat” translates into underfunding development and not giving stakeholders adequate time to work with the web development team.

“I’m trying to lose weight” is a funny one. In the breakfast analogy, this is a weird, self-defeating behavior that people fall into because of fear and shame. They’re so driven to lose weight that they don’t do the very thing that would help them achieve their goal, because they’ve equated eating with gaining weight, and gaining weight equals social disgrace. In the web development world, this translates into one of the most frustrating phenomena we encounter: a client who’s decided a particular technical approach is going fulfill an emotional need, whether it’s making more money, looking good to their colleagues, or something even more obscure. Whatever the motivation, they’ve latched on to an idea and they’re looking for someone to blindly implement that idea, even if it’s doomed to failure.

Starting Well: Breakfast, Partly Eaten. Yum!We learned a long time ago that if someone’s determined to skip breakfast, there’s no point trying to shove granola down their throat.

The most important thing to do at the beginning of a project is to slow down. Ask the right questions. Get the right people on board. Make sure you know what your underlying goals are.

If you’ve taken the time to start right, the rest of the day is more likely to zip along in a chipper and satisfying fashion.