The BHAG or Big Hairy Audacious Goals approach to vision or roadmaps is often recommended.  The objective is to keep from limiting ourselves.  The problem is that too much of a good thing can turn into a mental block or analysis paralysis.  Too many options or too many tasks to complete is often overwhelming.

The Big Hairy Audacious Goals Anti-Pattern Defined

This anti-pattern occurs when the focus is on the overall goals or scope rather than what is in front of you.  There is a difference between seeing a goal and being able to complete it today.  While people generally see that difference, it is not always made clear. That can lead to a sort of “are we there yet, are we there yet?” drumbeat. 

Urgency has its uses.  However, there are times when it gets in the way.  This anti-pattern is just one example.  The problem is that we spend time planning out some grand strategy or reviewing all that needs to be done instead of actual work.  We end up concerned more about all we have to do instead of doing it.

Avoiding The Anti-Pattern

I often think the Alcoholics Anonymous approach of “one day at a time” is more of a life suggestion.  It also has a biblical root in the idea of each day has enough worry for itself.  Do not worry about tomorrow.  To be clear, that is not an admonition to only focus on the step in front of you.  However, there are times when we are looking too far ahead and stumble over something right in front of us.  This anti-pattern is best avoided by good estimations and communication.  We keep our focus short-term or tactical through most of the project.  That allows us to make steady progress and not get worried about how long the journey may be.

For example, a tightrope walker needs only worry about the stem they are taking instead of how many more steps they need to cross the gap.  Our approach can be the same.  An attempt at embracing the whole project or scope can be daunting and install fear or stress.  We can avoid that and stay positive by taking smaller steps.

Challenges

The start of a project, in particular, can lead us to look at the overall plan.  All of those tasks and steps leave opportunities for missteps and mistakes.  All of that summed up risk is often worrisome and leads to mitigation strategies.  Too much focus on mitigation can leave us struggling to take the first step.  Furthermore, how much of that worry about risk will end up being useful?  If we take a proper step then worry about the misstep was somewhat misplaced.  As always, everything in moderation.

Rob Broadhead

Rob is a founder of, and frequent contributor to, Develpreneur. This includes the Building Better Developers podcast. He is also a longtime student of technology as a developer, designer, and manager of software solutions. Rob is the founder of RB Consulting and has managed to author a book about his family experiences as well as a few about becoming a better developer. In his free time, he stays busy raising five children (although a few have grown into adults). When he has a chance to breathe, he is on the ice playing hockey to relax.

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