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How to Know When a Project is DONE

One of the challenges that leaders face is knowing when to ship it. Seth Godin calls it a ship date. It's a great metaphor for something. When do you leave the harbor? When is it done? Sometimes “done” is a very difficult idea to pin down because the truth is, it's never done.

Do you have a value for excellence? Is that part of your core values? It seems like a great idea that we really want to do excellent work– we want to do things that are of great quality, things we're proud of, but when your only pursuit is of quality, how can you define done? It’s so easy to get caught up in these questions– to suffer under the tyranny of more.

You can always make it better, you can always find one more thing to tweak, so sometimes what you have to do is use time as the definition of done. Done is Tuesday, done is 48 hours, done is three months because there's no functional definition to good enough for almost everything, especially if it's complex and creative or requires innovation.

What you have to do is get it good enough to get it out in front of the public, in front of your customers, in front of your audience, so that they can critique it. So that they can let you know if it’s actually good enough. How can you know if it’s done if you haven't gotten feedback yet? Feedback can be very difficult to receive, there's a whole body of work just on that, but here's the thing, feedback is necessary, and fortunately, it's everywhere. You've just gotta put it out there, you just have to ship it.

If Tuesday is your definition of done, the good news is that Tuesdays keep coming. We call this iteration, ship it on Tuesday then ship it on the next Tuesday. Just keep going because for most projects you can't ship it right the first time. You probably can't ship it right the 10th time. But eventually, if you keep putting it in front of the public and you keep listening to their feedback, you'll create something that's excellent.


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