2015 is over. But every ending makes way for a new beginning. Which is why at Tank, before we jump headlong into 2016 with renewed energy and vigorous enthusiasm, we’re taking a brief pause to learn from the last year and thoughtfully make way for our next one. And from our moment of reflection, four key tactics have emerged to drive our next 12 months. Here’s to finishing every project of 2016 as strong as we feel right now.
1. Finish strong to start strong.
Success is driven by how much we can learn from the past. In order to finish strong, we need to commit to analyzing our performance at the end of each project. So while it’s often tempting to dive straight from one endeavor to the next, building in time to ask ourselves and each other what worked, what didn’t and why helps us constantly improve and avoid ruts.
A productive end-of-project review allows key team members to discuss a project’s successes and failures without prejudice. And, most importantly, the team must come away with an understanding of how to evolve their process moving forward. Every project, even the ones that don’t quite go as planned, will inform and improve the next one. The key is putting value on time spent in reflection.
2. Take stock midway.
At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
– 12 Principles Behind the Agile Manifesto
An end-of-project review sets us up to start strong the next time out of the gates. But what’s equally important is to make sure we’re conscious of our process when we are deep in the throes of a project. To help us understand how a project is progressing, we will often use an exercise similar to Hyper Island’s Project Mid-Way Evaluation tool, which identifies behaviors or patterns that we need to: A. Stop, B. Start, C. Continue, D. Do more (of), E. Do less (of). We’ve created an internal application to enhance the process. Using this, we can evaluate and adjust our approach as needed without slowing momentum. This practice aligns with the core principles of the agile approach in design thinking.
By calibrating and refining our approach midway through a project, we are setting ourselves up to successfully deal with the unique challenges that any project may bring and therefore giving ourselves the best opportunity to adapt to those nuances with speed and empathy.
3. Create cyclical brand interactions.
Every engagement your customer has with your brand, large or small, is an opportunity to build an ongoing relationship. When we consider what a “successful engagement” is, let’s not define it as the completion of the current task, but rather the creation of a spark for the next engagement. At Tank, we consistently ask our clients and ourselves: what are we doing to re-engage?
As an example of cyclical interactions, when you buy clothing from the online retailer ModCloth, your order confirmation email links to styling galleries for the item you just purchased, thereby driving you back to their site in a meaningful way, and increasing your excitement about the product you just purchased. Additionally, if you’ve left an item in your cart without buying, ModCloth will follow up with an email if the item goes on sale. Another online shop, Bow & Drape, takes this idea one step further — presenting you with a 10%-off code when you navigate away from the checkout flow before purchase.
Geo-location technology has vastly increased the opportunity for re-engagement through cyclical brand interactions.* For instance, the Starbucks app pops up on your phone’s lock screen when it knows you’re near a Starbucks location or if you buy a coffee at the same time everyday. Right when it’s latte o’clock, Starbucks is there, reminding you to get coffee and making your purchase as effortless as possible. Technology like this is an incredibly powerful opportunity for brands to engage their customers not just regularly, but at the perfect time and place.
*Speaking of goals for 2016: Here at Tank, we’re currently working on our own geo-location based app — look out for more on that very soon.
4. Sweat the final 5%.
Whether you’re creating a website, developing a new brand or building a salubrious new abode for your poodle Alfred, the final 5% is where the magic happens. At 95%, the project may be complete — but it’s not finished. The final 5% is the time we spend tweaking letter spacing for perfect legibility, adding subtle interactive touches to give our users clear feedback, ensuring our content is beautifully presented at every viewport size and making sure that the final lick of paint on Alfred’s new doghouse is just right.
Websites in particular can be built to 95% — and they’ll work, but they won’t truly come to life. The final 5% ensures they will reach that sweet spot where they communicate effectively while meaningfully engaging their audience on a deeper level.
This is your year.
A new year is always ripe with promise. Promise of new ideas, new approaches, new adventures. But every something new is built on the back of the last thing. In 2016, let’s build thoughtfully. Let’s pause to reflect. Let’s engage meaningfully. Let’s breathe life into everything we touch. Let’s finish strong. Happy New Year.
Come back on February 1st for thoughts on how to Find magic in the details.