Goal 1, Mission 0

Many years ago I learned a valuable lesson in short vs long term goals. While the decision making wasn't mine to blame, it was the first time in my career I was directly involved in a situation like this and I felt powerless to prevent it.

I was the Software Development Manager of a small team building a web application. We were in the middle of a huge project and were deep enough into it that we were starting to get a general idea of dates for our next milestones. I drew up the tentative project timelines and presented them to my leadership. Everything was agreed on and approved. Our leadership was happy with the progress we were making and were getting very excited to see the final product. We were on track, the team felt like we were winning.

A few days later we all attend the company-wide All Hands meeting and our VP presented to the whole company various status reports and project updates. In the process, he misstated our project dates really badly and announced we'd be launching several months earlier than we had agreed upon. My team all looked at me in horror. I was mortified. I promised them all I would fix things.

The next day I approached the VP. He wouldn't back down as it would make him look bad publicly. He held us to the new timeline.

We barely met that deadline and only launched the project by compromising on quality and removing features from scope. Features that our customers needed. It was a death march of long, frustrating hours attempting to achieve the impossible. By that point we all pretty much hated our jobs. The VP felt like he'd proven a point that we sandbagged the date. 3/4 of the people quit or moved around elsewhere in the company shortly after delivery.

That was the first time in my career I heard the phrase: Goal 1, Mission 0. In our VPs eyes we had won the battle. But in reality, the entire team was a casualty of that effort.

None of what we do is sustainable if you don't trust your leaders. No short term milestone is worth losing your team.

Nathan Anderson

Nathan Anderson