The addiction is the feeling of satisfaction that comes from shipping. The best PM I ever hired had it in spades (and he does a great job describing it here) and many of the best developers I’ve worked with had it (here’s a great description from a fellow Robot). It’s the high you get from getting it done – but it isn’t done then – the high grows as you watch people start to use the software.
I heard someone recently compare software companies and Las Vegas casinos – saying you just have to level them every 10 years and start over from scratch. I don’t know why you’d need to do that with a casino – but I do know why with software companies.
Over time, as the successful company grows, new types of people show up. Managers, middle and upper managers, professionals, administrators – many of them with great pedigrees who know how to run big companies. But more often than not, these folks are not addicted to shipping. Overtime, new political skills become important at the company. Meetings grow. Offsites. Reorgs. Corporate planning. The folks who are addicted to shipping often don’t adapt – or don’t want to. The managerial class is addicted to reorg’ing – and over time – the two groups of addicts part ways. One goes off to ship software somewhere else, the other has a greenfield opportunity to “professionalize” a company without the old-timers getting in the way.
When I got a chance to look inside Microsoft during a brief 18 mos. sojourn, I saw a company that had forgotten how to ship software. Lots of talented and smart people. Very few addicts. For every effort that went toward shipping, there were 3-4 layers of “professionals” ready to administer the process. They were addicted to something other than shipping.
This past week, The Robot Co-op shipped 43 Places, and a couple days later, we tried to issue a press release, but ran into 3-4 layers of helpful Amazon.com bureacracy that wanted to make sure we PR novices handled the press release the right way (Amazon.com funds the robot co-op). The concern was genuine – but it wasn’t a concern regarding shipping it.
We shipped the site and cancelled the press release. We know how to do one of those things, so let’s stick to what we know. We are addicts. And it is a pleasure to work on a small team where we all know the high of shipping it.
I love 43 Places.