It's amazing how fast things can happen when you've put in the time
I missed a week last week! Doh. I just didn’t feel inspired and had a really busy weekend. Back this week, though you’re getting this a day later than planned. Please as always hit reply, say hi. Also we’re hiring designers and engineers at Progression, so please do check out and share our careers page.
This week Kaz and I watched a bunch of ‘Song Exploder’ on Netflix. Each episode breaks down one well-known song, decision by decision and sound by sound, with the artist.
Seeing Lin-Manuel and Alex Lacamoire (his orchestrator and long-time collaborator) get excited all over again about a song they must have heard thousands of times reminded me how much I love the musical theatre genre in general.
There’s one point when Lin-Manuel describes how the extraordinary chorus to that song came to him on a train on the way to a party.
‘I can’t tell you where that chorus came from … all at once the chorus came.’
He’d been listening to the chord progression over and over and over. Suddenly in a flash, all the synapses came together into something incredibly fully-formed.
My mum — a music teacher — sight-reads like a demon and can learn a new instrument incredibly quickly (much to our detriment when she found a piano accordion during my youth). Kaz — my wife and an illustrator — started building a wallpaper brand a couple of months ago and she’s already had hundreds of sample orders and is shipping to editors of bougie interiors magazines. These things can look quick and easy, but it’s the years of work and practice beforehand that makes them possible.
It’s almost like there’s this elastic tension waiting to be released in the right direction. Compounding learning and practice can result in extraordinary and often unplanned benefits.
Constantly starting from step 1
Meanwhile, there’s me. I’ve spent my 10,000 hours designing things. That’s now committed to muscle memory in a similar way, but now as a founder, I’m having to learn something completely new multiple times a year as I zoom continually out of the day-to-day.
One thing I’ve been working on this week is our Q2 strategy. Planning in advance for this kind of stuff is reasonably new to me — Neil and I never formalised it particularly when it was two of us, but now we have a team it’s much more important to both have clarity ourselves and be able to consistently communicate that out.
I want Q2 to be the first quarter in Progression’s life where everyone is aligned on what we’re working on coming in — from 12-month goals to a north star metric, contributing metrics and ultimately some of the problems we might explore solving to move them. Doing it with nearly a month to go means we can do some primary research, gather data and gather feedback from the team before setting it in stone.
I’ve been reading Amplitude’s excellent North Star Playbook to structure this.
What I’ve found is that as I read through and follow the steps, all the threads of everything we’ve learned — both from customers, data and talking strategy with investors and friends — have come together quickly into something that makes sense.
I don't want to claim that our quarterly strategy is equivalent to ‘Wait for it’. But I think that when we’re done it will represent the most coherent summation of a strategy that I’ve personally created. And it happened in hours.
I’ve just got to the point where I’m becoming more fluent at this part. Next month I’m sure I’ll be learning something new all over again.
Thanks for reading this, one of my regular musings on product strategy, life as a founder and moving from designer to early-stage CEO and onwards. You can also find me on Twitter and some older/longer writing on jonnyburch.com.
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