The longest string of dependent, non-compressible tasks is the critical path.
Critical path analysis works backward, looking at the calendar and success and at each step from the end to the start, determining what you'll be waiting on.
Yet most organizations focus on shiny objectives or contentious discussions or get sidetracked by emergencies instead of honoring the critical path.
Nice article from Mark Suster, full of relevant advice:
Most people suck at presenting to big groups. It’s a shame because the ability to nail these presentations at key conferences can be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to influence journalists, business partners, potential employees, customers and VCs.
So I thought I’d write a piece on how not to suck when you give a presentation.
Think about your experience at a restaurant with too many options. The owner thinks they are giving you the ability to have anything you want and you are thinking, “oy, vey, can’t you just give me a few well curated options? The less you frequent the restaurant the more this is true. You’re not a master of what’s on the menu and you don’t want to invest the time to parse through all of its complexities. So you turn to the waiter and say, “What do you recommend?” or your order from the specials.
Yet the restaurant owners, chefs and waiters know every item on the menu by heart and wonder, “What’s the big deal? Just choose what you like!”
"- How can I get an XLS report for this data?""-It' simple really, just go to the administration, select the reports tab, search for the Excel export widget, click on the button to get the export options, tick the columns you want to export and you're done!""- Yeah, right... Can you say it again?"
This, right there, is probably the most underrated skill in the whole field of software development (and probably in the product development profession at large).
You have to master complexity to make things uncomplicated.
Federighi: I think that’s a unique talent among folks here. If you think about it, so many of the people here are so capable of dealing with complexity, so capable of operating complex tools that something could be simple, or at least workable in their eyes because of their capabilities, but that wouldn’t be very appropriate for the average person. And yet our best people, despite their own facility for navigating complexity, also have a natural gravitational pull toward simplicity and understanding what’s intuitive and continually returning to those solutions.
Ive: It’s also good that we have team members who are also not good at dealing with complexity. [LAUGHTER] I’m just saying.
When you build a product you make a lot of assumptions about the state of the art of technology, the best business practices, and potential customer usage/behavior. Any new product that is even little bit revolutionary makes these choices at an instinctual level–no matter what news stories you read about research or surveys or whatever, I think we all know that there’s a certain gut feeling that comes into play.
The point is really the breadth of changes the iPhone introduced to the Blackberry offering and roadmap. Some of these are assumptions about the technology, some about the business model, some about the ecosystem, some about physics even!
Imagine you’ve just changed the world and everything you did to change the world–your entire world view–has been changed by a new product. Now imagine that the new product is not universally applauded and many folks not only say your product is better and more useful, but that the new product is simply inferior.
Put yourself in those shoes…
His point is that computers are very complex things, more complex than those of us familiar with them think they are. A person can be intelligent, highly specialised, well educated, and still not be interested in learning how to properly use a computer. Why should they? Computers are more complex than they have to be and the payoff for understanding that complexity is, for most people, very limited.
Great XKCD today:
I'm pretty sure some people feel the same way about snails and frogs...