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The Green Sheet Online Edition

April 08, 2024 • Issue 24:04:01

Book Notes: Mastering unpredictability

The Art of Slicing Work:

How to Navigate Unpredictable Projects

By Anton Skornoyakov

March 1, 2024

Given his background as a mathematician and physicist, Anton Skornoyakov didn't seem destined to write a book on navigating unpredictable projects. But he wasn't satisfied with his initial career choice, so he pivoted and became an entrepreneur.

He found that while the early years running a startup were challenging, he "eventually found ways to better organize my teams so we could ride the storm of unpredictability with less stress and more success." Now, he works with organizations on "slicing" work so that they can improve their impact.

According to Skornoyakov, slicing "is the ability to break down your project into very small parts, or milestones, that you can deliver within a few weeks. These milestones aren't arbitrary. Each is focused on creating a result that can be tested in the real world, allowing you to provide your team members with meaningful feedback."

Using fictional situations, Skornoyakov demonstrates distinctions between two types of slicing, vertical and horizontal. For example, preparing a meal for a dinner party can be sliced horizontally and vertically. It can be sliced vertically into each completed dish, and it can be sliced horizontally into each individual task that needs to be done. A parent needing help with this meal might assign a ten-year-old child the horizontal task of peeling potatoes for use in two separate dishes. Or, a neighbor who is an excellent baker might volunteer to help, and the cook, using vertical slicing, might ask the neighbor to bring tiramisu, knowing this friend needs no instructions to make the dessert.

In unpredictable situations, staff can share knowledge and work together to slice huge projects into small, vertical projects, each of which can be completed and evaluated within weeks. The author has found that this process is more nimble and efficient than one that divides a project by customary horizontal tasks and passes it from department to department until eventual completion. There is much more to the concept than that, but it's easy to see how this process could be applied to initiatives in the ever-changing payments industry. end of article

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