Do The Hard Thing

This is not really an Office Automation post, but these thoughts have been on my mind lately and maybe you can use them. My post-blog snarky remarks, as usual will be in RED.

Let me preface by stating immediately, that I didn’t invent the concept of The Hard Thing. Seth Godin’s Blog and books and podcast(s), and the Manager Tools Blog and podcasts and several others have all stated this principle repeatedly. I just hope to put forth a good personal example.


What is “The Hard Thing”?

In every job, there is a part that is The Hard Thing. The Hard Thing is what you are actually being paid for. If your employer or client could have figured out the hard thing, they would have done so and not hired you. The Hard Thing may even be the hard thing for YOU to do, but it is certainly hard for your boss or client, and maybe impossible for them.


The Hard Thing in Practice

Recently, my firm was contracted to put in the Information Technology systems at a small company. This job site is approximately 56 miles from HMA. The fact that Los Angeles traffic is horrible, is no qualifier. We’re one of only a few places in America that people say: “Oh, the airport is 2 hours away.” vs “Oh, the airport is 25 miles away”. You might think that The Hard Thing of this assignment, given that I’ve dealt with some very weird IT systems for fully half of my adult life, would be the drive. No. It isn’t.


The Hard Thing is usually obvious (but sometimes not)

The Hard Thing in this particular assignment is, and I knew it would be from the start: Getting an Internet circuit and VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) [phone] system into the building. I’ve been on the ordering end of this kind of assignment four separate times. When everything goes right, and all paperwork has been signed, it takes a provider (ATT, Verizon, Time Warner, etc.) a month to get a circuit from the street to your DMARK (pronounced deemark, the place inside the building where the circuit comes in and is terminated for use inside the building, usually a phone room, wiring closet, server room, et cetera).


The Hard Thing and Project Derailment or Cancellation

The notable thing about The Hard Thing, is that it is usually the thing that will derail a project. The Hard Thing is the thing that will (and SHOULD) take up all your time. It may be stated when you take a job or project, or not. It may also change as you go along. The easy things about your job or project will take care of themselves, or be passed to teammates or subordinates. The Hard Thing is the critical path for your segment of the project or position. It may or may not be absolutely critical, but there are certainly pitfalls to it not being done.


Figure out what The Hard Thing is for you, and focus your time and energy on that

Every day, you need to focus on The Hard Thing. You may be waiting for paperwork ,approval, or sign-offs from others. You need to follow-up every day and stay focused on The Hard Thing. Set reminders (in Outlook or whatever calendaring / reminder application you use) so that you don’t lose focus on The Hard Thing (it’s what you are REALLY being evaluated on).


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