Recently, we expanded into roll labels. To do so, we made a substantial investment in new label printing and finishing machinery. Since the printers arrived months before our finishing machine, we soft-launched by purchasing a low-end finishing machine that could only make circle roll labels.
No one would have faulted us if we delayed launching until the proper finishing machine arrived. What would have seemed odd is if all of the machines arrived and then we continually postponed launching while they collected dust. You don't make business investments and not put them to use.
You don't make business investments and not put them to use."
Despite the obviousness of this principle, businesses struggle with it when investments are not physical. It would make anyone uneasy to see a machine sitting unused, but it's not as bothersome if human effort is invested in a project that gets delayed. This is an unfortunate because investments of time are significantly more valuable than investments of money. We can make more money, but we can't make more time.
Investments of time are significantly more valuable than investments of money."
Since most projects require collaboration, as soon as anyone invests time in a project, you are essentially letting an investment collect dust if you cause it to be postponed.
Let's consider the life of a generic project:
- Someone notices a problem with one of our processes and suggests a solution.
- A product designer, reviews the problem and proposed solution and drafts a spec for the design team.
- The design team creates mockups based on the product spec and iterate until everyone is happy.
- The project is placed in the development queue to be worked on.
- Development begins work on the project and submit a pull request once it's ready to be reviewed.
- The developer waits for feedback on the pull request and iterates accordingly.
- Once everyone is happy the pull request gets merged.
- Information gets disseminated about the feature so we can make use of it.
Realistically, once step 1 is complete, someone invested time towards a project that should yield a positive return. The investment at this point isn't huge, but it grows as each additional step in the sequence is completed. As we get further along the process, the downside of delaying becomes greater as a larger investment is now sitting idle, collecting dust.
Business growth is all about return on investment. To enjoy strong growth and solid financials, you pick high return projects and execute them quickly. Picking the right projects is incredibly difficult. Getting them done faster is not. Since returns tend to compound and this cycle repeats constantly, shortening it has a major impact on long run growth. The sooner we get a return on capital spent (monetary or human), the faster we grow.
Picking the right projects is incredibly difficult. Getting them done faster is not."
This doesn't mean projects shouldn't be delayed or abandoned. If you discover a project is without merit it should be abandoned. Picking the right projects matters and sometimes we start the wrong ones.
But, if something is worth doing, then it should be completed quickly. Investments in human effort shouldn't be viewed any differently than investments in machinery. You'd feel weird seeing a machine not being used and you should feel equally weird letting your coworker's effort go un-used.