Monday, October 8, 2012

A Tale of Tails

Every weekday morning, my family goes through the same routine:  I get up first and head downstairs for coffee; then our 4 year old wakes up and kicks my wife out of bed; at 8 am, I let the dog out back to relieve himself and get his morning meal ready while he is doing so; etc.

This morning, I observed something rather fascinating about our dog's behavior.  Due to the layout of our house and the orientation of the back deck, when I let him back in he takes off like a rocket.  Because we have hardwood floors, he can't turn at that speed and has to take a very circuitous route to get to the kitchen where his breakfast awaits.  I found this amusing because this is not an uncommon behavior in the professional world either.

Over the years, people often question what is more important:  design or execution.  I first encountered this seemingly philosophical (using that term very loosely) subject in college, where my professor in VLSI design stated unequivocally that a good design could be fatally hampered by poor execution.  My dog would seem to confirm this as well because even though his thought of going straight to the kitchen for breakfast is a good one, his inability to execute properly (i.e. slow down) forces him to take the most inefficient route to get to his food.

Balance is necessary
That's not to say that the act of focusing on goals should be relegated to the back burner completely.  Contrast the behavior of our canine pal with that of the Canadian rock band, Rush.  For over 30 years they have focused on one thing only:  making what they feel is the best music possible without regard to airtime on the radio or awards that they could possibly be given.  In spite of the fact that they have a rabid fan base, it is only now that they are finally nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Could they have arrived at this point sooner?  Yes, if they were willing to sacrifice the design of their band and focus instead on what the media expected (more radio friendly vocalist and songs to match).  But they didn't change their design even though it meant that they could possibly have never been nominated.

Careful planning to avoid unnecessary risk by developing contingency plans is a necessity to allow you to avoid making whimsical decisions on the fly that could eventually unravel your bigger plans.  But too much planning can yield an inability to execute due to a fear of never being ready.  The point here is that a healthy balance of design and execution is the ying and yang of business whether this applies to a product you are creating; your career; your ability to make a sale; etc.

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