The Point is To Do What is Desired, Not What is Requested

As a software creator I have learned many lessons over the years. The one I learned early on from my mentors and practice daily, is to do what is desired, not simply what is requested. This means understanding what the customer, your boss, the company is after and making sure you deliver that. This is how you delight and deliver results that are valued repeatedly. This requires curiosity, understanding, empathy, flexibility and execution. Many people blame lack of time, people or money. The resource a “rosh gadol” person has is resourcefulness.

Ultimately, fulfilling the other person’s desire is what they expect and when they don’t get what they desire there’s no value created. The explicit instruction they give can help, but completing the instruction is just a step on a journey, not the desired location.

I was reading Joel on Software’s post on “rosh gadol” and thought, this describes exactly the expectations I have of outstanding software creators and other professionals. You instantly recognize a “rosh gadol” person when you work with one. This is how you become sought after, whether you are a business or individual professional.

Tamir Nitzan explains, “For instance, someone might be told to clean the barrel of their rifle. A “rosh katan” will strictly clean the barrel, perhaps leaving it useless because the trigger mechanism has sand in it, whereas a “rosh gadol” will clean the entire rifle and lubricate it so it’s ready for use and doesn’t rust. Another example: you tell a soldier to “go notify so-and-so that we will be ready for inspection at 1600”. By 1700 you’re curious, so you ask him “did you notify?”. His answer might be “well I called his office and left a message”. A “rosh gadol” would likely say: “I called his office but got his voice mail, so I left a message. I called back an hour later but still got voice mail, so I called his cell phone and left a message there too. I tried him again an hour after that and he assured me he will be here by 1600. I called him again 20 minutes ago and he said he was on his way but stuck in traffic” (a real “rosh gadol” would have notified his C.O. of all this without being asked of course).

The Freedom of Games

Have you ever played a strategy game with friends? I love to play a real-time strategy game called Age of Empires III. What’s interesting is the freedom with which my friends and I play it. When we’re playing the game we try new strategies, we conquer, and we have fun. Yet, when it comes to our careers we have the constant temptation of being tugged back into timid obedience, afraid to shake things up too much, we find it more difficult to get things accomplished because we might approach things from a cautious, wait-and-see approach. When we play the game everyone jumps in and wants to learn more right away. In our professional careers there’s easy excuses we can play if we want to rationalize our paralysis. An example of paralysis is, “I would have to get a certification before I start doing this.” The most rewarding times in my professional life are when I approach it like the game I love playing, when I’m dynamic, changing strategies, building and conquering. It’s good to have friends that will keep pushing you to play the game, not letting you rest with comfortable routines.