“It’s always best to start at the beginning.”
Glinda, The Good Witch of the South, The Wizard of Oz
Remember, Glinda isn’t real; nor is the opportunity to start at the beginning. We always start in the middle.
We’re better served thinking like MacGyver. Step 0 should always be to empty your pockets and look around. What do you have to work with?
Pretending to take out a clean sheet of paper is well-meaning but ultimately misleading. The goal of that clean sheet is to avoid ending up with little tweaks squeezed into “the way we do things around here.” The only way to achieve that goal, however, is to build a comprehensive picture of the “the way we do things around here” together with an understanding of why.
That clean sheet of paper is one of those business cliches that sounds wise, yet conceals more than it reveals. The point of the clean sheet is to eliminate assumptions that no longer serve their purpose. But you can’t surface those assumptions without understanding the existing environment.
It isn’t the assumptions you see that cause problems, it’s the assumptions you miss. Better to have a fully marked up sheet of where you are actually starting and know what obstacles need to be addressed than to trip over something hiding behind the whiteness.