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the final hurdle September 8, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Staff.
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Photo used under CC license; by Flickr user australian_overanalyzer.

Photo used under CC license; by Flickr user australian_overanalyzer.

The Final Hurdle. Okay, so you’ve come up with a great idea. You’ve researched it thoroughly. Your boss has said, “that’s really cool; let’s try it!” Everyone you show it to thinks it’s great. You mock it up. You spend several hours of productive time on it.

Then you give it to your boss and say “okay, this is done, show it to The Final Hurdle.”

Who promptly says “yeah, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

There is little more crushing than not clearing the Final Hurdle. All your hard work… all your energy… all your enthusiasm… all of it’s down the toilet. And the Final Hurdle will rarely give you a good answer as to why your project didn’t get cleared. Usually it comes down to “doesn’t fit our company’s vision” or “we can’t market it”. Nevermind the fact that you came up with the perfect way to market your idea. It’s just not going to happen.

And you’re crushed. Deflated. Shredded into a tiny pile of idea-like bits.

But it’s worse than that. See, you came up with this idea. You nursed it through the entire race, until you tripped over the Final Hurdle. Now you have to go back to working on things that aren’t your idea, or that you see clear problems with, or that you just don’t care about. You’ll work half-assed on them, and you’ll do it slowly. The next time the Final Hurdle comes up with an idea, you’ll be bitter and cold about it, and you won’t give it your all.

Now, all of this could’ve been avoided if you’d just brought the Final Hurdle in from the beginning. Unfortunately, that presents its own set of problems. For starters, the Final Hurdle will micromanage every step of the project. You’ll have to run everything past her*, and the project will grind to a standstill while you wait for her to get around to answering your e-mail. If she even bothers. Try to move ahead, and you’ll be pulled back by changes — micromanaged changes that are impossible to enact but so tiny that no one will even notice them except the Final Hurdle. And the Final Hurdle will be involved in every stage of design (scrapping yours for hers), art (replacing your clean, minimalist graphics and text with huge, bold, garish graphics), content (wanting her people to write the content but not following up when they don’t bother), marketing (if you’re lucky enough to get any), and execution (pay attention to it for two weeks, then let it fall apart because there’s a new shiny thing on the horizon).

Good luck clearing the Final Hurdle. If you manage to pull it off, rejoice, because the bigger the company, the higher the Final Hurdle is and the less-likely you ever will be to clear it again.

* For That Guy, the Final Hurdle is a highly-placed manager technically on the same level as his boss but actually wielding much more authority and power. This person is a woman who has been in the industry so long that she isn’t capable of changing with the times, and she has severe “oo! Shiny thing!” disorder. Your Final Hurdle may be male, but for the purposes of this article, the Final Hurdle is a woman.

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