In failing to build a company, I have learned many things. Core to all of them is that a company is not a product. Ideas change, products change, people change. We “pivot”, rapidly, relentlessly, sometimes ruthlessly.
Managed well, change is a catalyst. Managed badly, it can be catastrophic.
In this series, I try to explain the various ways in which I failed to understand this, and how I would endeavour to do better next time. You may notice that the style of these posts is more instructive than usual. Remember that these are mostly addressed to my future self, and as such, I am telling myself what to do; you, my dear thinking meatbag, can do whatever you want.
Not gonna lie, I love me some sticky notes on the wall. I adore test-driving code. I want to pair on pretty much everything, including drinking coffee. (My morning coffee with my partner is mandatory.) I love retrospectives. I think the daily standup can be an inspiring start to the morning (when it’s not conducted over fucking Zoom with everyone’s camera turned off).
All these methods are just that, methods, not results. They don’t achieve anything by themselves. They’re all enablers to help you iterate frequently (and at a sustainable pace), with high-quality, actionable feedback.
Use them, by all means, but use them to iterate. You don’t need to polish the internals of an app you’re 80% likely to throw it out. Test-drive the code, if it helps you achieve your goal, but if your goal is a demo, remember that. Write tests around the parts that must work, and test the rest manually if it’s faster to do so.
Reflect, of course, but focus your reflection. Maybe instead of a retrospective every week, you need one after every customer sales demo. If you have no feedback, there’s not much to talk about.
You have many tools in your toolbox. Choose the tools that will help you ship the thing you intend to ship, when you intend to ship it.
More in the series
- Focus on the problem, not the solution
- If the company goals change, the company should probably change too
- "Do research" is not a corporate strategy
- Your corporate values transcend your product vision
- Trust your gut, understand your heart, and open your mind
- Go to therapy with your co-founders
- Explore the terrain first
- Unless someone cares, don't waste your time
- Code is a liability; ship without coding, if possible
- Do less, and do it better
- Agile methods are tools to try more ideas in less time
- Until you have traction, money is a trap
- If you don’t know how to do it, that’s your biggest problem
- Roles can be fluid, but they must be defined
- Camaraderie is helpful, but no substitute for working together