This is the first in a series of posts about Things I’ve Learned from Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs is the champion-hero-warrior-poet for all of those people who are extremely detail-oriented living in a world that says the details don’t matter and you need to focus on the big picture; you need to just get it done on-time.
This was always very hard for me to come to grips with. I am extremely detail-oriented and see lots of flaws in lots of things. This caused problems for me early in my career because I was spending time on details that others felt just weren’t important, especially if it put a deadline in jeopardy. But, when I got into the world of developing products that people use, my weakness became a strength. Paying attention to detail allowed me to see problems before they arise. To see missing pieces in flow and execution. To see something that with repeated use would become a nagging annoyance that might cause the customer to slowly hate using the product over time.
I am in no way advocating slipping deadlines, but I’m more bringing to the discussion the idea that just releasing to meet the deadline is not the only parameter in which to discuss this topic.
Yes, I totally agree that the Perfect is the Enemy of the Good, and the Pareto Principle and Agile Practices and Scrum (big believer) and Iteration.
But too often, seeking perfection and getting all of the details right are confused. These are not the same thing.
Perfection in this context is seeking to hold back the solution until it perfectly meets all use cases, without exemption and without flaw. We know from experience that just isn’t possible, because new use cases will continuously arise.
Focusing on Details is the Friend of the Good. If you focus your efforts on a limited subset of what you need, and focus so much of that effort that you nail down every detail, you then become effective in your self-imposed limitation. This is precisely what XP, Agile, and Scrum are all about.
Iterating and Pivoting are about discovering details that you didn’t know existed, not forgiveness for poor quality. Iterating and Pivoting are about testing details precisely to figure out what is important to the customer, not dismissing details off-hand in a race to execute on the Big Picture.
Those who say, “no one will notice” are wrong. I noticed it, and I’m not so special that I’m going to be the only one. So if I notice, then someone else will too, and that could be the very thing that ruins it for them. Just as an example, I have tried numerous To Do List and Project Management applications only to be thwarted because something was missed in the details of the execution of actually using the product. It frustrates and annoys and then I have to come up with the workaround.
How can you get the big picture right if the details are wrong?
You can build a house without wiring, but if the owner wanted to be able to use electricity, that would be a problem.
Focus on the Details allows the Big Picture to take shape precisely as you intended it rather than a cubist version that resembles what you wanted but had to veer.
Using a “revolutionary” product that was rushed to market being more concerned with the Big Picture than the Details is like being stuck behind a slow motorcycle. It’s more annoying than being stuck behind a slow car because not only do you want to be going faster, the motorcycle should be slipping between cars and not slowing you down.
(This was my experience using the Motorola Xoom compared to iPad 2)