I had 12 weeks off in 2019 (lucky me), of which half was a sabbatical. I dedicated half again to getting better at writing.

Getting better at writing was will always be step one in a longer term project to develop a product of my own. Getting better at writing just seemed more achievable within three weeks.

I did alright, I think. I read The Sense of Style and followed its advice. I wrote a lot of words and read a lot of books with a dictionary by my side.

I steadily got better at getting thoughts out of my head and into words quickly, and coherently.

When I went back to work, it was on a new project; researching the business behind @FlywayDB, a company we’d just spent many millions of $’s on acquiring.

My new stakeholders: C-Level.

All of my writing effort went into briefing the Exec each week, conveying everything we’d learned and looking for guidance in applying that new knowledge to growing the business.

The briefing contains everything: the weeks’ mission (and our approach), sales performance (and our pricing experiments), customer research (and our product strategy) etc… and all in fewer than 500 words. A self-imposed limit to achieve a ~2min read time:

The weekly briefing, in outline

Reading back through the last three months of these, I can see this has been the most interesting research (ie. learn about the business) and design (ie. deliver a product strategy) project that I’ve ever worked on and… the most frustrating.

I cannot find a coherent and compelling way to tell this story without adding context that would benefit competitors.

I worried this was a limitation in my ability to write, until I read “The public invisibility of running mid-stage successful companies” by @asmartbear:

Not only can I not share the company’s strategy, I can’t share our thought processes, our rationale, how we think about the market, how we’ve analyzed it, about customers, about metrics, about competitors, about the future. In fact, the process and data are much more precious than the conclusions.

I’m still writing it down, I’m just not sharing it. For now.

© Jonathan Roberts 2019
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