Know Your Target 🎯

Feb 09, 2024 3:40 pm

Happy Friday,

I've been busy applying to conferences, and there is a topic that I feel I'm perfectly suited to speak on, but I always hesitate to submit the talk. The talk is about how to build really good teams that build bug-free software in 1/3rd of the time and enjoy it.

In this email I want to go through a little something that is way in the background and origins of how I arrived at my menu of techniques I use with teams. It's something called target conditions.

Now I first learned about this when I was reading books like the Toyota Kata. For those who may not be very familiar, this book is one of the ones responsible for everyone talking about things like continuous improvement and Kaizen. Strangely, nobody talks about how to do any of it, even though it is in the book.

Target conditions are the starting point, and like most things, they're fairly easy to explain and a little difficult to start with. I started with these back in 2012 when I got serious about building better teams.

Let's imagine a restaurant that only makes cheese pizzas. We want to identify its current condition in terms of results, outputs, and operational metrics. So we might look at pizzas per hour pizza rejection rate or oven temperature, cheese usage, or anything else we can imagine.

The trick with this is to identify and measure the conditions of how we are today that we believe influence a better tomorrow. This is why we probably won't measure something like the number of songs heard during a shift, but we might measure the pizzas per hour. You may not need many of these, and a good way to start is by just abstractly asking, "How would I know we are doing well," and then working your way backward to measures and indicators.

Now comes the fun part. We've identified how we run today, so now we're going to identify how we wish we run in the future.

Start impossible. That's right, start with something impossible. Start with the dream. I want to make a billion pizzas an hour! Do this with each of your conditions.

Now, walk it back to where you might be in either 10-20 years from now.

Walk it back again by half and half again. Keep walking this back until you're a few months in the future.

Take a look and make a gut check. Does this seem unreasonable?

Ok, now you know what you're improving towards. Now you can actually begin to experiment and make continuous improvements and Kaizen. You know how to measure, and you know what you're trending towards. You can target specific indicators with your experiments, so you're not improving for improvement's sake, but making targeted improvements.

Back in 2012 I identified about 15 indicators including things like how the team got along and their satisfaction. It also included quality indicators and general performance.

When I was done with my experiments I had built a team from people who literally screamed at each other every week to one that was rebuilding relationships. I built a team that went from arguing about software design to shipping something that ran right the first time. I built a team that clients distrusted to one that clients said they never could've done without us.

It also turned out that what I learned during this time kept working with teams everywhere.

So, my advice is to carve a few hours out of your time next week, and figure out what your current conditions are, and start dreaming about what they could be.

And if you want help, schedule time with me and we can talk through it together.

Here's my weekly update for February 9th, 2024...

🗒️ Stop Planning and Start Learning


The book “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries swept through the product and business world in 2011, and it had a simple message: Organizations that learn the fastest win.

He also brought the concept of Minimum Viable Product to life.

Click here to read more


Ryan Latta