Michael in Culture 10 minutes

Premature Optimization

I was talking to a colleague the other day who is working on a centralized initiative that has the potential to do a lot for our organization. He’s excited. He’s going to meetings, getting alignment, getting funding. In it all, leaders are asking him for a grand vision that will bring all the disparate parts together into a coherent whole. He delivered that grand vision in the form of a plan that would bring a set of solutions together to satisfy what all stakeholders are asking for.

I’ve been in that situation myself in the past. It’s all very exciting. Every meeting you have has a sense of purpose and direction. You are finally bringing this change to the organization that it so desperately needs.

Unfortunately, in the past, I’ve missed the reality that the only thing that is known is the next one or two things that need to be done to improve the current situation. The grand vision might be needed to bring the needed alignment and funding into the situation. But if that vision removes me from the stark reality that if I don’t act upon the improvement opportunities that stand before me right now with a high level of urgency, I will not end up making the transformative change that I am promising to everyone.

I might still deliver a tool. I might even declare “Mission Accomplished” as I do. But without a flow of improvements that have the regular engagement of all stakeholders, the tool or initiative is destined to have little effect.

People say it’s bad to prematurely optimize code. It’s just as bad to prematurely optimize solutions. Make your solutions fit the problem you’re facing today, and give enough vision to provide the direction needed to keep it going in the right direction.