Anti-Pivots or Company Focus

Focus is a difficult thing as a start-up.  By definition you’re exploring a space: trying to find what you can build quickly that enough people will pay enough for. So you’re jumping around all the time.  We’ll do A which will lead to B which will…  No too long or too expensive, instead we’ll do C which requires an agreement with D.

For me it was who is the best customer for the value created in StickyVote.  State legislators; no, federal legislators; no, newspapers; big advocacy organizations; small ones.  Maybe users through this new Facebook thing?

The problem is that these shifts, while important, can confuse and wear down staff and pilot customers. Since focus and enthusiasm is going to shift, what would I do different next time?

Set more criteria for judging whether something is successful.  How can we prove whether this is the next right step?  Or what would demonstrate that this is the wrong early adopter?  It’s easy for some time to go by, attention to shift and to say, “This isn’t working.”  Which is an easy excuse to switch to whatever is exciting and new that week.

Ok, money isn’t pouring in; there are a million theories for why not. Before getting too far into those, lets look at why we thought it would work.  Have we put the new idea/software/pitch in front of enough of the target customers?  Is it just one first impression that we’re operating off of or is it really enough opinions to mean something.

Good things come from setting criteria. First, if I don’t have some initial criteria for measuring a new direction, then I shouldn’t talk to my staff about potentially shifting course. Second, refining the criteria with staff means they can hold me accountable when I next want to shift.  Just as a good agile process adds transparency to development and priorities, a good “direction process” should do the same for big questions.  Where are we going? Why? How do we know if this is a step on the right path?

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