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Keep Moving Your Feet

Keep Moving Your Feet

When I was an ice hockey coach (okay, assistant coach) I always told my players, “Keep moving your feet.” This directive is shouted daily in ice rinks at all ranks – from junior skaters to professional levels. Today, the same instruction is as valid for teams in the software business as it is for hockey teams. We must keep moving, because we simply can’t afford to stand still.

There are three main reasons why hockey players are implored to continually keep their feet in motion:

  • Because it is harder to get moving again once you’ve come to a stop.
  • Because it is more difficult for your opponent to hit you if you’re constantly moving.
  • Because if you stop moving your feet, the goalie will know that you’re about to take a shot.

As my Atex colleague and longtime hockey head coach, Phil Campana, says, “Once the feet stop, the momentum stops. This prevents getting to loose pucks and stopping opposition players. When you stand still, the opposition can gain position and advantage on you. Offense is all about finding and creating space, and you have to keep moving to do that. Defense is just the opposite. You want to close gaps and take away space. Without momentum, it’s hard to do.”

A metaphor to the software business leaps up like a rising slapshot to the corner of the net. I know, that’s actually a simile. But, the point is, you’ve got to keep moving your feet in business to maintain momentum, to stay ahead of your competition, and to achieve your goals.

John Maxwell in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership talks about “The Law of the Big Mo” and harnessing the power of momentum. Sometimes in business, momentum is the only difference between winning and losing. As Maxwell says, “Momentum is easier to steer than to start – getting started is a struggle, but once you’re moving forward, you can really start to do some amazing things.” Sounds exactly like hockey talk to me.

In my company’s business, we use a continuous development model. New software builds are compiled daily and tested every night. This model is built into our agile, team-based software practice. Among other benefits, it ensures that we generate momentum every day. Our development teams are continually making progress, and always moving toward the shared goal of delivering quality, innovative software releases on-time and on-budget.

In addition, with continuous development, we are always integrating, refining and improving our software. Bugs are found and fixed quicker in the release process than with other non-agile methods. And, as every programmer knows, bugs can be a huge momentum killer. Often referred to as the “Broken Windows Syndrome”, there is a psychological phenomenon that shows we have less energy to find and fix bugs when there are a lot of them to attack, rather than knocking them off one at a time. 

Having momentum is important to our business because it pushes us to think on our feet, to be more productive, and to make better decisions. Hockey shifts are only 45 seconds long, so players must make an impact every time their skates hit the ice. In business, we need to take the same approach. By maintaining forward progress, we are able to add value every day. If everyone comes to work with this feet-moving philosophy, we become an elite team, rather than a team of elites. And, this benefits our teammates and our customers.

Speaking of customers, I recently read that the founder of HubSpot, Darmesh Shah, said that to build a successful software business, “you don’t just want customers, you want crazy loyal fans.” I can think of no fans more passionate than hockey fans. We are most impressed by those players who give 110% on each shift, and who show their support – through passing, checking, scoring, defending, and sometimes fighting – for their teammates.

Whether we’re talking about developing software, selling, building a marketing strategy, supporting customers, or executing a financial plan, it always starts by getting our feet moving and keeping them in motion. Just like in hockey, achieving momentum in business is all about (1) creating and executing a gameplan; (2) seizing opportunities to score; (3) responding to competitive pressures; and (4) always focusing on teamwork.

It’s Newton’s law. An object in motion tends to stay in motion. An object at rest tends to stay at rest. So, let’s get moving and keep on moving until we hear the whistle blow – or even better – until the puck ends up in our opponent’s net.

Pete Marsh Google+

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