Momentum is magic
A concept I’ve frequently found myself referring to lately is momentum.
In physics, momentum is a quantity that captures the tendency for a moving object to remain in motion. Once something gets moving, it takes energy to slow it down, and the forward motion often becomes the new default state.
This is a great metaphor for project work.
At the start of a new project, it’s easy to procrastinate or become distracted by snacks. A proven way to overcome this inertia is to get a few quick wins that point you in the desired direction. The quick wins snowball into a tangible sense of momentum that drives a team forward towards the broader goal.
What can momentum look like in practice?
- A new team forms around some big problem. Say, customers have been complaining about slow page loads or the company has decided to prioritize a hairy migration to a new technology. The eventual goal feels daunting, but the team prioritizes a handful of low-hanging fruit tasks that feel like stepping stones towards the Big Outcome. After only a few days on these tasks, the team has collectively built a mental model of the problem and a clear path forward emerges.
- In the realm of company-formation, the lean startup methodology is essentially a framework for generating momentum. By tightening the feedback loop between product development and customer feedback, a team is able to build confidence in a solution to a problem faced by some market.
- I know that blogging is supposed to be good for my career. But I’m only able to get over the hump of motivation to write a thoughtful longish-form post once or twice per year. The post you’re reading is an attempt to leverage momentum by writing shorter posts when inspiration strikes. Stay tuned for whether it works!
A project’s success is determined by the team’s ability to generate and sustain momentum. A good way to generate early momentum in a project is to prioritize quick wins and explorations that tighten the feedback loop.
A few other good things out there on momentum and related concepts:
- The middle slump: the power of weekly project goals, by Leeor Engel
- Stepping Stones not Milestones, by James Cowling
- Become Like Water My Friend, by Taylor Pearson
- Venkatesh Rao’s book Tempo