Now, Near, Never
Activate on good behavior, and good things happen. I have created or adopted more than a few practical tools I would like to share.
Today is the three of the N solution. A simple way to work with teams and solve problems. Teams are not required; you can use this system alone. Groups tend to develop good ideas, and this model helps you inspire or grow with them.
The method is all about focused energy, time to market, and wisdom. Everyone has a good idea when creating or solving for success. Managing a flood of ideas is a problem. Too many brainstorming meetings end with lists and emails only to be lost or forgotten. And n-1 is never a good sample set, so create n-3.
The entire model focuses on speed to market. The now, near, and never model gives you a framework. Focus every useful input into just one bucket.
Sounds simple enough, so why isn’t everyone doing it?
That isn’t very easy to answer. I find it mostly boils down to the now. Get it now, do it now, return on investment now; anything else is distracting and useless. Management often emphasizes control around the now and see anything else as detrimental to progress.
In some cases, near and never concepts are tabled for another meeting where “BlueSky thinking” captures innovations or solutions. They are rarely shared and often lost. You will often hear management instruct everyone not to share anything from these meetings, not distract the rest of the company, or justifiably leak critical information.
Sometimes it’s people like to be a resource for corporate lore. Usually, it’s no one want’s to be wrong about proposing a solution. Humans are statistically horrible at telling the future.
That is why I work with teams to create the three buckets in whatever way they can or is comfortable — Mindmaps, online shares, documents, whatever works, and is cataloged for future use.
The method is simple;
Now tasks get done in 2 quarters.
Near ideas get done in 4 quarters.
Never concepts are not active, pending, or postponed.
Now, Near, and Never can be run in serial or parallel.
Now tasks are measured on a short scale. KPIs measure tactical execution every two weeks.
Near ideas are measure monthly.
Never concepts are reviewed annually or on-demand or discovery.
Capture all relevant objects in one of these three buckets. If an item changes, it’s a status flag changes; it starts over.
The benefits of this model are apparent. Ideas captured make people feel empowered as contributors. Items have an exact forcing function when trying to tag them with now, near, or never. You know what to expect when you propose or vote on an item. There is wisdom that develops with any group.
Natural patterns and team dynamics can be understood by how the system works. How many things are tracked and successfully executed. Those who contribute short vs. long term value across several dimensions give useful feedback to the groups as they mature. Management becomes a passive force instead of an active force in determining what gets done when.
That’s it, use it, be decisive.