Rapidly Changing Priorities

wheel of fortune plm 500

Question:
It seems like projects go from top priority to dead and back again multiple times per day. I don’t have time to even start any projects, much less complete even an interim draft.

Answer:
This is an unfortunate effect of the new Agile methodologies that supposedly bestow superpowers, such as being able to stop on a dime and instantly switch to something else.

At WAK!, projects would literally die and come back from the dead multiple times between breakfast and lunchtime. I would try to make documentation that looked plausible from a distance, usually a Powerpoint with screenshots of product designs.

All this scattered thinking, though, is just a stand-in for smart business practice. Most business leaders understand the importance of projecting a strong persona, but very few have the mental toughness to really cope with their roles without falling into delusions of omnipotence.

In fact, their behavior looks a lot like actual mania. According to literature on bipolar disorder, manic episodes are characterized by arrogance and ego inflation, rapid speech, an unwillingness to listen, and a (false) sense of heightened skills or abilities. It’s like the rush felt by a race-car driver who’s in perfect harmony with the machine. It messes with the risk-reward part of our brains.

People under pressure can’t think as clearly, even when they feel like they’re floating up in a clear blue sky. Nothing’s more stressful than realizing that your startup is about to run out of money, and then suddenly, there’s this golden opportunity just over the IPO event horizon. And so all priorities get shifted until the next shiny object floats into view.

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