Ready, Fire, Aim?

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There’s no mistake in the title.

The mantra Ready, Fire, Aim - as opposed the more familiar Ready, Aim, Fire - comes from the world of software development. Like a Zen koan uttered by a master to startle a student into enlightenment, the phrase is designed to jolt sluggish organizations into action.

Can the concept work in the world of local history program development?

The standard Ready, Aim, Fire approach to putting together a new program usually includes some or all of the following steps.  

  • READY - We get an idea for something new, something we think might be the basis of a good, solid program.
  • READY - We do some scouting around to see if other organizations or attractions are doing anything similar.
  • READY – We fine-tune our idea a bit based on what others are offering.
  • READY - We talk to upper management, staff members and volunteers to gauge their reactions to the idea, get their input and secure agreement that we should indeed move forward.
  • AIM - We spend some time in the library and perusing online collections looking for background information and interesting details to add to our new program.
  • AIM - We start thinking about a title, take a look at the calendar and find out who may be available to work the event.
  • AIM - We develop a program budget and try to figure out how to cut corners and still get the event up and running.
  • FIRE - When we have all our ducks in a row, we announce the date of our new event, begin promoting it, cross our fingers and hope people show up. And, of course, we also hope they enjoy the program.

The Ready, Fire, Aim approach starts in the same place but quickly heads in a different direction.

  • READY - We get an idea for something new, something we think might be the basis of a good, solid program.
  • READY - We do some scouting around to see if other organizations or attractions are doing anything similar.
  • READY - We block out a few hours and plan an MVP – minimum viable program – incorporating what we learned by looking at what others are offering. Nothing too elaborate, expensive or complicated. Bare bones.
  • READY - We choose a working title and schedule the program for the first open date on the calendar.
  • READY - We recruit the absolute minimum number of people to work the event.
  • FIRE - We invite a small group of regular customers, members, a school group, or the garden club. We offer the program at a huge discount or allow our invited guests to attend free. In exchange they give us honest feedback and suggestions.
  • AIM - We go back to the drawing board and either modify the program or eliminate it based on real customer input.  
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 Neither approach is perfect.

Ready, Aim, Fire can lead to over-analysis, down-the-rabbit-hole research projects, ongoing discussions, meetings, design-by-committee, endless tweaking and general inertia.    

Momentum is a beautiful thing, but the Ready, Fire, Aim approach has its own pitfalls. We can rush into projects prematurely and encounter all kinds of difficulties that could have been avoided with a little more thinking, a little more planning and a lot less frantic activity.

What do you think? Can local history learn from the world of software development? Could this approach work for you and your organization?