Greg Morris

Designer, Pretend Photographer, Dad

What Don’t You Want

As I move my working life towards planning, proposing, and delivering on major projects, I’ve realized what a pain it can be. From the outside looking in, those three steps look easy, but to do them properly, you first need to outline exactly what the result shouldn’t achieve.

You read that right. More than anything else, the first step is to think about the worst possible solution you could deliver. This solution technically achieves the goal correctly but with all the wrong metrics. Andrew Wilkinson outlines this well in his post about The Power of Anti-Goals:

The idea that problems are often best solved when they are reversed. That it’s often easier to think about what you don’t want than what you do.

He’s absolutely correct. It’s much easier to think about the worst way and then work backward to ensure you move in a better direction. A great example in Andrew’s post is considering what they didn’t want their positions in their company to be when building the company. They did not want to spend too much time away from their family nor be too busy and stressed and as such put checks and balances in place to achieve that goal.

Once you are aware of what you absolutely do not want to deliver, you tend to steer well clear of the pitfalls and issues that can plague a poorly thought-through project and deliver a better solution. At this point, it’s also important to ensure that you measure the project against company and personal values. No one wants to deliver a product they are ashamed of nor work on something they would rather not.

Ensuring your planning and project lives up to what you expect from it at this early stage makes for a much better experience all around. There are fancy words for these kinds of things, of course. Here’s a recent post discussing what and how Multi-Scale Planning is and in true Sweet Setup style, how to do it in Obsidian:

Multi-Scale planning is a way to make sure that your vision and your values get translated into your everyday actions.

I think, now more than ever, it is important to deliver work that not only fits your expected level of quality but also fulfills your values as a person. That’s not going to be relevant for some projects; however, this important step enables you to ensure you do not deliver work you later regret. To use the words of Mike Monteiro in Ruined by Design: “Effect of what you put into the fabric of society should always be a key consideration in your work.”

So by bringing to mind what you do not want to deliver as an end product, you can be certain that the plans you now begin to put into place will deliver an end result you can be proud of.

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