Ready? Go! Tweak.

Dec 29 22:00 2003 Ronnie Nijmeh Print This Article

Let's set the scene. You're in a packed stadium. It's ... and you're watching the ... sprint. You're up inthe ... section and you see what ... little ... on the

Let's set the scene. You're in a packed stadium. It's the
Olympics and you're watching the 100-metre sprint. You're up in
the nosebleed section and you see what resembles little "ants"
stretching on the field as they prepare for their 10-second mad
dash to the finish line. As the race is about to begin,Guest Posting the
official hollers: "Ready? Set. Go!" And off they go, as fast as
the wind, with the hopes of finishing first among a handful of
equally talented competitors.

But wait, "Ready? Set. Go!"? Is this phrase always correct?
Should you always be "set" before you "go?"

The answer is: not always. Let's take a step back to understand
this using an example.

Running a Business vs. Running a Race

Running a business (or running your life) is not entirely like
running a race. In a business, you don't usually have to practice
for months for something that lasts a mere 10 seconds. Business
plans are more likely to have a longer shelf life (well, at least
longer than 10 seconds, I'd hope!). Nor do businesses stand on a
racing line with their competitors and wait for formal instructions
to begin.

On the other hand, you do have to plan and practice in order to
achieve success, whether you're a business builder or a sprinter.
How else are these situations similar?

Similarities

Well, for one, competition is fierce. A business has other companies
in its market. A person has other people in their expertise vying
for the same opportunities and jobs. A runner has other athletes
aiming for the gold.

Next, there is a common thread in terms of goals. A business wants
to be the market leader and innovator. A person aims for the top in
the class, to become the most knowledgeable or have a reputation for
excellence. A runner's ultimate goal is the gold. In essence, all
three aim for the top spot; to be number one in their field.

Lastly, motivation, inspiration and hard work are all requirements
to succeed. I can't imagine a runner winning the race if he's never
up early in the morning practicing. Nor will a business become
number one in its industry if it doesn't have a clear vision or the
necessary people to succeed. And a person will not become successful
and well-respected if he only works during a full moon between the
hours of 2 and 3 am. Okay, well maybe not that drastic, but you get
my drift!

Differences

The most relevant distinction between businesses and athletes is the
idea of false starts. Starting before the official whistle isn't
allowed during races. In contrast, false starts are a common
practice in the business world. No business starts at the same
place, at the same time as their competitors. Rather, businesses are
often light years ahead in terms of new products, services, or other
innovative business practices. Then, of course, the competition will
analyze the success and attempt to replicate it!

False Starts

Well, what if false starts were allowed during races? Would it be
fair? Instead, what if there was a tradeoff: the runner can start 10
metres ahead of his competition but the catch is that he would only
be allowed minimal training and planning beforehand. So, chances
are, the sprinter won't be in as great of shape as his opponents. Is
it fair now?

While we're not going to get into the ethical or legal issues with
false starts, it raises an interesting point. What if, instead
of: "Ready? Set. Go!", we had:

Ready? Go! Tweak!

What does this mean? What does it entail? And how will you be
directly affected?

Let's understand the "Ready? Go! Tweak." concept a little more.

In almost all cases, it's better to start a race ahead of your
opponents. When you're ahead, you have the breathing room to make
mistakes and improve, while still remaining in the lead. But how do
you actually start ahead of the pack? It's simple:

Go before you're set.

That's the whole concept of "Ready? Go! Tweak." summed up in a few
words. It's the idea of going live with the best point-in-time
information and also with the understanding of the potential risk of
launching with reduced planning. You don't want to hang onto a
project for too long since stalling could be far too damaging in the
long run.

While we're not debating whether planning is necessary in order to
succeed (there's no doubt it is), we need to discuss the extent of
the planning required to succeed.

"I don't think about risks much. I just do what I want to do. If you
gotta go, you gotta go." --Lillian Carter

Is it necessary to plan out each and every stage of the project in
extreme detail in order for you to succeed? If so, than this concept
isn't quite what you're looking for. If you're able to adopt the "do
it first, tweak it later" philosophy, then "Ready? Go! Tweak." is
right for you. And you just might find yourself with a huge
advantage later on. You would have planned less during the initial
stages of the project, but overall, you were able to get
instantaneous feedback and finalize your plans along the way; a
process I call: Spot Planning.

Spot Planning Spot Planning is the process of creating plans and
making decisions concurrent to launch. It's on-the-spot decision
making as opposed to pre-planning. It gives you the flexibility of
deciding on-the-go without stalling or disrupting progress. The key
to this is the effectiveness of the spot planners.

Spot planners are able to:

* Understand the time implications of a project * Make quick and
accurate decisions * Thrive in ambiguous situations * Deal with many
stages of a project at once (planning, implementation, tweaking,
promotion, etc.)

Do any of those characteristics describe you? I hope so!

Tweaking Performance One Shot at a Time

Let's go through another example to reinforce the idea behind
tweaking. Imagine that you're brand new to archery and you're taken
out to a controlled shooting environment. The instructor will give
you a prize if you can hit the target. Then you're given two options:

Option 1: You have 1 arrow, so you must aim carefully before you
shoot. Once you've shot that single arrow, it's gone! Boom! Bye,
bye! So in order to succeed, you'll probably want to take as much
time as you'd like to make sure the shot goes as planned.

Option 2: You have 100 arrows, but you're not allowed to aim as
carefully before you shoot. Instead, you're only allowed to shoot
and tweak your performance after every shot. In essence, you'll be
continually improving with each arrow fired. By the 100th shot,
you'll be more accustomed to the angles, environment, wind and other
factors. Odds are better that you'll hit the target with 100 chances
than with only one.

"Each trial brings progression, and only through progression will
success be born." --Ronnie Nijmeh

In reality, you may not be given 100 chances to succeed, but the key
point is that there's an opportunity for trial and error in most
business and personal experiences. So use these opportunities wisely!

The importance of tweaking your idea, product, or service each time
around can't be stressed enough. Did it work the first time around?
If so, you know what may work in the future. If not, find out what
needs improving, tweak it, then try again.

Perfectionism

You can't always be perfect. You can't always write the perfect
report, have the perfect product, or simply "be" perfect. You're
prone to make mistakes and have flaws (whether major or minor). But
that shouldn't stop you! Acknowledge that you can't always be
perfect and use the effort to learn, grow and adapt.

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close
they were to success when they gave up." --Thomas A. Edison

If you prolong the planning stage in search of "that perfect ending"
or "that perfect feature" you won't be progressing on to new levels
of success. And if only you're willing to let go, you may realize
just how close you are to success! Parents, doesn't this sound
familiar (perhaps when your child moves away for the first time)?

Tough Questions

It should be noted that not all initiatives should utilize
the "Ready? Go! Tweak." technique. I wouldn't say that a car company
could "tweak" their faulty brakes after it's been released to the
public. Nor would you want to experiment in an already established
and competitive market.

So ask yourself:

In your business, project or venture, is it possible to begin after
the minimum amount of planning? What are the negative effects of
doing so? Will you be slingshot into the lead if you use the "Ready?
Go! Tweak." and "Spot Planning" techniques? Are you able to afford
making mistakes or deferring decisions until after the launch date?
Are you working with a smaller, more adaptable team?

If you're in a position to launch with the minimal amount of
planning and are willing to tinker along the way, you just might
find yourself in first place when all is said and done. Can you do
it?

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Ronnie Nijmeh
Ronnie Nijmeh

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