The Question That Makes Every Project Better

Kristen Swanson
2 min readMay 6, 2018

I love my job. Every day I work with people who build amazing products, processes, and experiences. As masters of their crafts, each member of my team prides themselves on the quality of their work. Without a doubt, this has made us great as an organization.

However, there’s a shadow side to perfection. The pursuit of excellence can cause paralysis. It can lead us to cook up complex solutions, long project plans, and resource-hungry designs. Work becomes a drag, and priorities become fuzzy as time distances us from the project’s inception.

Given the growth of our organization, my team can’t afford to spend days swimming through thick mud. (I’m sure your team can’t either!)

And so, we’ve started asking each other a critical question before we start any new endeavor:

“What’s the easiest version of that?”

This simple question does a lot.

It forces us to focus. To simplify something, you must develop a strong opinion about what’s most important. This unrelenting focus has helped us limit scope creep and get more done.

We de-risk large projects by starting small. Instead of implementing a complete solution at the outset, this question helps us uncover places where we might try small experiments. These small changes allow us to gather data that tells us if we’re on the right track.

Wins happen more often and our team feels good. Being part of a great team is even better when you have many things to celebrate. By shipping things often, we learn and celebrate a lot. It’s a reinforcing dynamic that has turned us into an execution-machine!

Of note, the “easiest version” doesn’t mean that we cut corners or don’t do excellent work. We still maintain our incredibly high quality bar, just for smaller increments of work.

You get to the end of a marathon by running one mile at a time!



Kristen Swanson

Organizational Development Nerd, Edcamp Co-Founder, & Learning Scientist