One-Shots: When to Roll for Initiative on Your Company Wide Ask

Epic moments need epic songs: Above and Beyond by Audiomachine 🎵

Taking gambles on one’s career is scary. 13 years ago if Def Leppard had not performed this concert on CMT as seen in this strategically placed YouTube Link, we may never have learned that certain singers were meant for a completely different genre other than country.

Big gambles are when you know something phenomenal is happening in your industry or area of expertise, but perhaps are unsure which ship you’re supposed to get on. For example, when Flash was dying in games, many of my former colleagues could have chosen to keep learning Flash. Or, we could have learned Unity. Had I specifically not done that, I would not have a career in games.

I also would not have a job at Zynga today.

Engineers may want to move carefully on testing a theory. When they’ve approached complexity this has made it safe – go slow. For those who have lived through moments that they know are rare, those career making risks, then they know in those rare moments often the things that truly matter are less about the POCs and more about believing that doing nothing is more dangerous. Perhaps not doing enough tests fast enough…not spreading the load of evaluation enough… they fear missing the timing. They fear centralizing a problem too much will miss from lack of shared knowledge. We’ve been trained through our lived history that easy wins are rare. That career making moments are exceptional. Easy wins on top of perfect timing? The rarest. Business shattering or making moments? Utterly pee your pants terrifying. Flash? Or Unity? And when entering that moment we can’t possibly believe what we see – perhaps we do not even want it to be happening. We are in denial. This can’t make us a ton of money. This can’t save us a ton of money. There is no way this ONE THING could be THE THING that matters. If we are confident that perhaps we may have picked correctly on a priority, that can’t be right…what if we’re off in our data? When do we roll the dice in a big way? Is it really that important? If i’m unsure, I’ll wait until my manager says it’s a priority. If my manager does then say it’s a priority because she knows…do I trust her enough to believe she may be right? Or should I trust those with 10 more years on my manager and wait.

Just wait a little bit longer.

It can’t be real.

It’s not real until executives say it’s real.

Let’s wait.

But wait…What if those with tenure don’t know? What if they are too far removed from the problem to know? What if they are trusting you? How do we bring enough visibility to the exceptionally rare opportunity – to each person, to each team? How much time do we have? How patient do I need to be?

If the above is what you are feeling, you’ve waited long enough. You’ve been patient – stop waiting for everyone to be on board – those above you trust you to tell them – they need you to move at the right time – and if enough people around you are confident, you’ve reached quorum and consensus and have lost no members – It’s time to get out of read-only mode – the action is allowed to take place across the distributed structure of your company.

Roll for Initiative

As engineers become more experienced they believe that there will be devil in the details – and there will be. Some dice must be rolled and we can’t keep waiting to roll. Great things come from making the right decision at the right time. These decisions are made not based on volume of data, but enough impactful data to move forward with a great ask – They are terrifying because you move forward with more weight based on the trust of your team’s experience and the value proposition, the promise, more than the data you currently have in hand – of which may be promising, but limited in scope to only you or someone who came before you. They happen only a handful of times in your life – and you may be wrong – but that dice? Roll the crap out of that one. Do the one thing.

It is exceptionally rare when the universe blesses an intelligent team with the message, the data, the urgent need, the gift of someone who has seen, and leaves them with the opportunity to choose to move fast on a technology or stand still. To prioritize their time on the one thing together. For a career making risk, one team getting it right isn’t enough to make a career especially if that choice is most impactful when done across everyone. How do you get everyone past the fear gap to roll? Doing it in even one team is not enough. Reaching consensus in one set of hosts isn’t enough if its needed in the whole cluster.

Career making moments, are when everyone who is in a position of leadership rolls the same risky and impactful dice at the same time together for that one thing across teams and hitting success. It’s on the company’s leadership to provide all the players with the dice to play the one shot at the same time through forums for which that knowledge can be shared. It’s on its managers to make sure that the attributes were put in the right trees over time. And it’s on the key engineers to make sure they are all rolled in the right order by telling them “roll for initiative.” If you know what everyone has their attributes in you can be confident once everyone rolls, the likelihood of success.

I can’t wait to read your one-shots.

Image Credit: Nasa “We Are Going: Artemis I Launches: Artemis I is the first integrated flight test of the agency’s deep space exploration systems: the Orion spacecraft, SLS rocket, and ground systems. The mission is a critical part of our Moon to Mars exploration approach—an important test before flying astronauts on the Artemis II mission.”