The Goodness of Artificial Milestones

By Mark Sigal
April 29, 2009

sweet-n-low-front.jpgA friend of mine in startup-land had a really important meeting with a prospective investor, partner, customer (read: any and/or all of the above).

Knowing the one-shot nature of these things, he literally moved mountains in just a few days, achieving a transformational milestone for his fledgling, early-stage company.


How Did He Do It?

He re-framed his story and made it more crisp. He zeroed in on the experience that he's delivering to customers.

He took an earnest swag at better codifying the financial inputs and outputs of the specific type of business that he is pursuing (which, at early stage is often the best you can do).

What dazzled, though, was that he did a live demo that showed that this stuff actually works, including a couple of "AHA" moments that spotlighted how it would delight customers.

As a result, he passed the sniff test with a choice mix of "steak" and "sizzle."

Looked at from on high, the event of a big meeting had resulted in a whole bunch of things coming together simultaneously and equally important, very rapidly; all in the name of a great cause (securing a great and game-changing partnership).

That's a snapshot of the power of coalescing around an "artificial" milestone.

What's An Artificial Milestone?

An artificial milestone, unlike a schedule-driven milestone, uses an external event as the driver for an orchestrated sprint by the team to reach a specific plateau.

Because the milestone is driven towards a specific target audience within a fairly short time frame, it tends to force a team to simultaneously: re-think the definition of the situation; look at the problem holistically; and (equally important), functionally collapse the traditional boundaries between sales, marketing, development and operations (at least until the event milestone is reached).

In other words, it's a great driver of out-of-the-box thinking that is nonetheless highly targeted at achieving a specific outcome.

With that as a backdrop, consider leveraging the following artificial milestones, which are jam-packed with affirmational and transformational goodness potential:


  1. Meeting with a key strategic business prospect, like a sales channel, technology partner or a conduit into an existing installed customer base

  2. Pitching a specific customer (or type of customer) why they should embrace your product or service

  3. Presenting to an investor and showing them a compelling reason to invest

  4. Selling your vision/strategy to a "reach" hire (i.e., an "A" player whose signing on would signify that you have reached the next level)

  5. Doing a marketing or training seminar with your constituency base (customers, VARs, ISVs)

  6. Exhibiting or presenting at a trade show or other industry event


Action Item: Really ponder, then document, your answer to the following; If you fully concentrated your efforts in a relatively short sprint based upon one of the above-referenced artificial milestones, what might your outcome look like at the finish line?


Finish-line.jpg

Related Posts:


  1. Innovation, Inevitability and Why R&D is So Hard

  2. The Pitchman: Must Read for "Product Nuts"

  3. Metrics of Success: You can't improve what you don't measure

  4. The Paradox of Developing New Products and Services

  5. Product Sanity Check: Vitamin, Aspirin or Penicillin?


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