The Law of Diminishing Intent

Jim Rohn coined the term, “The Law of Diminishing Intent,” to speak of the need to take action now rather than later, because if we wait for later it becomes likely that we won’t do it at all.

In the context of OSS, The Law of Diminishing Intent is indicative of the enthusiasm an organisation maintains through the implementation of an OSS. Excitement for an OSS project tends to be highest at its beginning. Since large OSS projects can take years to complete, the challenge is to maintain enthusiasm across the duration, not just amongst the implementers but all of the stakeholders and project champions too.

The primary solution to this challenge is the ability to demonstrate progress. But demonstrating progress requires:

  • Goals
  • Shorter-term indicators / measurements / deliverables
  • Regular feedback

The Agile project delivery model with regular “sprints” and corresponding releases can be beneficial (as long as the long-term goals aren’t lost in the short-term focus).

Irrespective of delivery model, I’ve found the most important factor to building momentum is in getting bare-bones products into customers hands and then enhancing from there.

I’ve seen others try to get a solution finished before handing over to customers. The intent of handing over a much more complete and better quality solution is admirable… but is an approach that is harder to demonstrate progress on, thus falling foul of The Law of Diminishing Intent.

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