The Field Guide to Leading Teams

11/26Don’t confuse goals and tasks.

It’s criminally easy to get lost in tasks. Put up a dozen tasks in your task manager of choice, set dates, set assignees, build roadmaps – how exciting! All these little clicks can feel massively productive and make you look like a rockstar to anyone in sight.

This is all great until you get to the end of your month and look at your revenue numbers. Or your features shipped. Or whatever other meaningful goal you’re being tracked on as a team by your leadership or the marketplace.

A “goal” is essentially any exercise that requires mental setup, then translating from an abstracted notion to an executed concept, and finally testing against acceptance criteria. In other words, building part or whole of something meaningful.

The real trick here is to get to your goal in as few tasks as possible. What really matters? Do only that. Sounds obvious in theory but it’s devilishly hard in practice.

Fight the urge to hide bad goal strategy underneath task overload.

Best Practices

  • Avoid listing small tasks in Status Hero. (Status Hero can pull in data from Jira, Asana, or Github issues anyway.)
  • Instead of tasks, think in terms of goals. Goals have the end product in mind. They define meaningful progress for your team and project. Goals lead to real change.
  • Most software developers should only have one or two concrete goals a day.
  • By setting goals each day, you hold yourself accountable for achieving something meaningful. It prevents “snacking” on tasks that may look substantial on a to-do list, but don’t actually deliver value.