making judgments based on limited
information channeled up to them—
have only so many details to go on. One
of the biggest factors they use to determine success or failure is how a project
Did the project miss the deadline?
Were tons of bugs reported right after
the launch? Did your team have to explain to the boss why x, y, z didn’t work?
Whenever you are choosing what
to work on or where to apply your
best efforts, take a moment to step
back. Zoom out from your own preferences and remind yourself what
the bigger-picture goals are. Where
will your work mean the most to the
people in charge?
If you are not sure, ask. Go to your
manager and say, “I am thinking about
working on A or B next. Which is most
important? Or is there another place I
should be focusing?”
It may seem counterintuitive—you
might worry that asking about priori-
ties might make you look stupid—but
checking in with your manager is actu-
ally really smart. Not only do you en-
sure you are working on the right pri-
orities, but it is also a great way to keep
your manager up to date about your
contributions and show that you are
focused on the big-picture goals that
matter most to managers.
2. Make the Unglamorous a Priority
When people lose momentum on a
project, it is usually right around the
time the shiniest, most interesting
work gets completed. Don’t let this
happen to you.
One way to approach the boring details of a project—bug fixes, use cases,
among others—is to reframe them in
your mind. Tell yourself that this is actually some of the most important work
you’ll do because you will be helping the
outcome to be as perfect as it can be.
Look for opportunities to make
these tasks more challenging or interesting. Instead of slogging through
boring details, try to bring new energy
Although this work may not be all
that visible, it is still important. Re-
member that a rising tide lifts all boats.
Even if you do not get the glory for fixing
small final details, your work will make
the overall project more successful in
the end, and you will have been part of
a team that executed well. In time, you
will become known for always being on
the team that succeeds.
3. Channel Your Ability
To Keep Going
Have you ever heard a story about a
mother who lifted a car to save her
child? What about marathon runners
who talk about having “nothing left”
but go on to finish the race?
We all have extreme strength within
us; we just don’t usually see it because
it comes out only in extreme circumstances.
In normal life, your brain communicates with your body about what you
can and cannot do. Your brain says,
“Hey, that will hurt,” and your body
slows down. In most situations, this
serves you well. You cannot actually
lift a car every day, and you would not
want to try.
However, the ability to power
through challenges that you normally
don’t face is in your toolkit. Remember
that the next time you are nearing the
end of a long, exhausting project. You
can do it. You might feel like you have
nothing left, but the end is the most
important part—so, draw on your resources and make the last steps count.
If you work hard on a project, your
hours will not be worth as much if
you are not seen delivering a strong
finish. So, make all that work worth
it, and follow through on every single
step. Dot your i’s, cross your t’s, and
deliver amazing results that will take
you far in your career.
The Small Batches Principle
Thomas A. Limoncelli
Kode Vicious Unleashed
Culture Surprises in Remote Software
Judith S. Olson, Gary M. Olson
Kate Matsudaira ( katemats.com) is an experienced
technology leader. She has worked at Microsoft and
Amazon and successful startups before starting her own
company, Popforms, which was acquired by Safari Books.
Copyright held by owner/author.
Publication rights licensed to ACM. $15.00.
on a project,
it is usually right
around the time