Improve The Biggest Obstacle

. . . you KNOW YOUR IMPORTANT BUSINESS METRICS, you are measuring them and you want to make them better. This pattern helps you decide what to work on next

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In a startup, it’s certain there will always be more things to work on than there are people to work on them.  Even if you have enough people, it’s not always clear what to work on next. Often times, people want to work on problems they think they can solve or are interested in solving. These aren’t always the problems that need to be solved. Additionally, any planning done to figure out what’s next may be invalidated by the next change.

At the very beginning of Food on the Table, we successfully planned meals by hand with one customer, then two customers, then more. When we transitioned from one to two customers, we had to use the phone As we grew we began to accumulate a number of tasks to do the meal planning. We had to determine which tasks were the ones to do and which were the ones to ignore. Early on, we decided to prioritize our work to fix the problem that would give us the biggest benefit to growing. From this, we developed a notion of fixing the biggest obstacle to a goal – what ever that goal.

Later, we shifted our focus to the goal of short-term retention (the specific numbers came about as part of earlier business modeling).  Examining the results, we saw that the % of people who are retaining at a short-term (i.e. return for a 2nd visit) was not enough. This then because the business metrics we focused on and drove what we worked on.


Use your business metrics to decide what to improve, then find the biggest obstacle in the current process and focus on improving it.

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To make the improvements, you will run experiment(s) to find the change(s) that make a difference. You need to SLICE AND DICE HISTORICAL DATA about the problem, then FORMULATE A HYPOTHESIS and TEST HYPOTHESIS WITH MINIMAL CHANGE

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