The Willie Mays Story and Birthday Presents for Mom

How many of us really, truly think about what we’re doing before we do it, while we’re doing it, and after we’re done doing it?    Do we know why we’re doing it?   And, to me, most importantly, we need to think about if we’re doing it for ourselves or for someone else.   If we’re doing something for ourselves, then it’s pretty simple to meet our expectations.   We know exactly what we want, and we do it.   There you go….

If we’re doing something for someone else, whether it’s going to the supermarket, buying a present, developing software, or managing a project, it’s a little different than doing it for ourselves.   If we’re doing something for someone else, to be successful, we need to think about it from that person’s point of view.   If we’re doing something for someone else, it’s mostly irrelevant what we think about it or how we would want the job done.

When I was little, every year for her birthday I would get my mom a present.   I remember one year I bought her a book – The Willie Mays Story.    Now, Willie Mays was my favorite baseball player.   My Mom hated baseball.   But I figured, hey, I would get her a present that I wanted.    That didn’t work out so well for me that year, although I did get to read the Willie Mays Story.   And, it was always a great joke every year on her birthday.   As long as I didn’t get her a book about baseball, I was golden.  Talk about setting the bar low….

Sometimes it seems like we manage projects and develop software like we’re buying the Willie Mays Story for my mom.   We manage projects the way we want the project to be managed.   We develop software in a way that we want it to work.    Seriously, though, how can that turn out successful?   It’s possible my Mom was a huge baseball fan too, and if she was, then my birthday present would have worked out.   It’s also possible our clients and partners think about projects and software the exact same way as us, but that too is a longshot.

A better chance of success would be to consider how the recipient of our work wants our work to be done and how they want to receive our work.   This is in terms of communication, documentation, formatting, and obviously, the application itself if we’ve developed some software.   We might think a status report every day is ridiculous, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what we think about that.  If that’s what the recipient of our work wants, that’s the job.    If we send someone a status report once a week, but they want it every day, it’s like we’re giving them the Willie Mays Story and they hate baseball.   It’s just not going to work out.

Don’t give baseball books to baseball haters.   And when doing work, do the work and deliver the work the way the recipient wants it done.    Everyone will be happier.   And, oh yeah, Willie Mays is still my favorite baseball player.