Capital Allocation & Prototyping

I’ve been thinking about the book The Outsiders by William Thorndike and some of the lessons learned. About how the successful executives featured in the book were iconoclastic in their novel approaches to their respective industries.

Chief among their traits was there understanding and devotion to strict capital allocation. Although it’s typical to think of capital allocation in dollar terms, I believe that entrepreneurs and project managers must also be disciplined capital allocators. Their resources may not always be monetary in nature but none-the-less represent important value that must be protected.

As I prototype Memos Of The Future, I am constantly struck by the multitude of decision making tradeoffs I face each day. What should I be spending my time on? Should I buy my own domain and host MOTF myself or stick with Medium for now? Is it better to focus more energy on publishing or should I also be promoting audience and networking through twitter and hacker news?

A project manager is a microcosmic version of a CEO. The manager has finite resources that can be converted into value to benefit the project and ultimately, the manager is faced with many decisions that present tradeoffs in resource allocation with different pros and cons.

That’s really the point of the book. The 8 featured CEOs didn’t start out as legendary leaders. They began as relatively unknown project managers and efficiently and meticulously built their process to maximize the value of their resources at a given time.

A key feature common among each of the leaders was their ability to assess the situational time value of their respective resources. Ie: Conducting a share buy back versus paying a dividend versus paying down debt. Using same dollar amount as a starting point but the three decisions have unique tradeoffs and potentially yield greater or less value for the money spent depending on the situation.

But I digress. The purpose of this line of thinking is to assess the resources of a project manager and specific to MOTF, the resources available to prototyping.

While working on MOTF, I have access to prototyping resources such as time, effort, money, relationships and network value. The decisions I make in using these resources come with different tradeoffs that I have to effectively manage and the environment that I make these decisions in is ever evolving.

I’ve effectively published 5 prototype articles. Each takes time, effort, $5 monthly membership to Medium and the lost opportunity cost of devoting that time and effort to other money making opportunities. Thinking this through from a capital allocation perspective, I view the expenditure of these resources as an investment in future potential earnings. They are sunk costs but they are not completely lost in that I have used these resources to capitalize another resource, MOTF.

Digging a little deeper into my decision making process, I ask myself, can I be more effective with managing these resources behind this decision?

I’ve sunk time and energy into 5 prototype essays of varying length and scope. They have each achieved varying degrees of success. 2 of the essays have performed better than expected while the other 3 have been duds. At this point, I am asking myself how best to optimize the time and energy spent on future essays. Can I glean any information from these first 5 attempts to better assess the tradeoffs in how I spend my resources?

The short answer is that I don’t believe I have enough data to make drastic changes. As I continue to prototype, I want to make my decisions with these tradeoffs front of mind and measure the impact as much as possible. As I work through more publishing my goal is to become more efficient with allocating the precious resources I have. In doing so, I aim to maximize the value I can gain and the speed with which I gain it.

I’ll revisit this topic with a few more essays and considerably more data under my belt.

I mentioned the book The Outsiders as a central theme in this post. It’s a fascinating read and although many of the featured leaders cut their teeth in a different era, the book is full of timeless wisdom. I recommend reading it(affiliate links above and below). If you are unsure of whether it’s truly worth your time you can get a great synopsis here. The Rabbit Hole at Blas.com is one of my favorite websites for sourcing new books. Although I rarely read the summaries (they are too in depth), I do get a good sense of whether or not a book is worth my time from the reviews there.

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