How many times have you heard a manager ask: “What are the easy wins?”

It’s so easy to focus on easy wins (see what I did there?) and distract ourselves from actual progress. I promise one will never run out of easy wins either. But why is it a trap?

What Easy Wins Get You

  1. People are excited that progress is being made so quickly!
  2. Things get done!
  3. So many easy little things to do!
  4. Ugh, that looks too hard. Do it later!
  5. All done!

Everyone is used to the “easy wins” and a short time to launch. Everyone is used to results being quick. And when I say everyone, I say the manager’s manager, and their manager … all the way to the C-levels and the CEO. Innovation and competitive advantages doesn’t come from this.

After a few months of doing nothing but the easy things, the hard things — the things that bring progress, innovation, and competitive advantage — are suddenly too hard.

See, in order to innovate or provide a company with a competitive advantage, usually, the company has to do something hard. That’s why it’s called a competitive advantage, it’s hard for competitors to do too, so they’re months (or years!) behind.

Instead, we’ll usually find shitty, tightly coupled code and ourselves repeatedly doing the same thing over and over again. Fussing over whether or not something can be done in less than a week or two.

The first hard thing a team will have to do, is to start replying to the question: “What are the easy wins?” The answer will be: “There are none, stop asking!” Pretend everything is the same amount of hard and pick the one that results in innovation and competitive advantage. Or just pick the hardest one.

Are the risks? Yep, sure are! Are the risks worth it? It’s better than doing “easy” stuff all day, which anyone can do, any time — including the competition. Don’t focus on it though, just get it done when it needs to be done.

Besides, the benefits and risks far outweigh the certain stagnation that comes from doing “easy wins.”