One of the things I loved about working for a technology company is being exposed to things like agile methodology, scrum, MVP and The Lean Startup. It’s helped a lot with how I (try to) plan work and build Shift. But it’s also had an influence on setting the vision.
Here’s what I mean. One of the characteristics of agile or lean product development is trying to solve one, real problem at a time. So while you may be trying to make charitable giving a part of everyday life - as was our vision at Chimp - that doesn’t really help you month to month, week to week and day to day. So you have to break down the vision into more management chunks and solve one problem at a time.
For me and Shift, I broke it down like this:
#1. Get work.
#2. Do great work.
#3. Make money by doing great work.
I didn’t get too bogged down by the financial model, what types of clients I wanted or even what types of services we could offer. I just tried to get work. Blogging for a technology company, retainer consulting, building a website and managing direct mail were some of the projects that I took on in the early days. Some turned out well. Others not as much. But goal #1 was get work and I was lucky to get some.
Then the challenge was to do great work. This is the phase I would say we are currently in. I’m constantly learning, and in some cases re-learning, what makes a good client and project, where my skills and passions are and how to best manage workflows. I’ms till not too concerned about the business model, profit margins and long-term viability because if I can’t get work (or keep getting work) and then do great work, I could have the best business model in the world it won’t matter.
We’re getting closer to producing great work on a consistent basis as well as figuring out where we can provide the most value to clients and how. And if we have better insights into those areas, I’ll be able to build a much better, more accurate and relevant business model than I could’ve 3 months ago sitting at my computer.
Being agile with your vision doesn’t mean not having a vision. It just means the distant future is just that - the distant future. But breaking down that bigger vision into more manageable chunks of mini-vision helps you stay focused and share that vision with those working with, for and around you.
Brady is the Principal at shift - an agency that provides creative, fundraising and strategic services. He is also an adjunct professor at North Park University’s School of Business and Nonprofit Management, contributes to Huffington Post and manages his own blog at recharity.ca. You can follow him on Twitter @bradyjosephson.