Choices, Not Roadmaps

How to waste half a day by not reading RFC 1034

Since Shape Up got here out, many individuals requested some model of this query:

I perceive you make bets six weeks at a time. However how do you propose in the long term? Don’t you will have some type of a roadmap?

The brief reply is: no. We don’t have roadmaps. We take into consideration what to do on the timescale bigger than single bets, however we do it another way.

Why not a roadmap?

Irrespective of the way you attempt to hedge it, a roadmap communicates a plan—a sequence of commitments—to different folks.

We after all have a lot of concepts about what we’re going to do subsequent. However we don’t wish to make any commitments, internally or externally. This is essential.

What’s improper with committing to future work?

First, there’s the uncertainty. We don’t have a crystal ball. Say we’ve options A, B, and C we wish to construct. We don’t know if A goes to work out as deliberate, and what that might imply for B. We don’t know if we’ll have a eureka within the bathtub sooner or later, and new thought X will immediately really feel rather more necessary than B or C. Or we would begin constructing out B, solely to comprehend that it’s not what we wish or it’s tougher than we thought and wish to bail on it.

Briefly, we don’t know sufficient to make good on any guarantees.

Second, there are expectations. Management may be happy with altering course, however what about everybody who noticed the roadmap and was eagerly awaiting characteristic C? What in regards to the conversations with clients the place somebody within the firm assured them to only maintain tight as a result of C is coming? Regardless of our greatest intentions, if we are saying we’re going to do one thing, it’s going to be actually onerous to again out of that, each internally and externally.

Third, there’s the guilt. Yeah, guilt. Have you ever ever checked out a protracted record of stuff you stated have been you going to do however haven’t gotten round to but? How does that record make you are feeling? The realities of life and uncertainty present us that 100% of the issues on the roadmap aren’t going to occur on time the best way we think about. And in the meantime, the world isn’t going to cease and look ahead to us to complete the previous record. New concepts are continuously developing. New requests and new issues continuously come up. If we maintain ourselves fully to the roadmap, we’ll must say no to new necessary issues we really wish to do. And if we interrupt the roadmap to do these new necessary issues, we’ll must push again different issues we promised. And that received’t really feel good.

Our resolution was to cease making commitments and begin accumulating choices.

A portfolio of choices

An possibility is one thing you are able to do however don’t must do. All our product concepts are precisely that: choices we could train in some future cycle—or by no means.

With out a roadmap, with no acknowledged plan, we are able to fully change course with out paying a penalty. We don’t set any expectations internally or externally that this stuff are literally going to occur.

Which means no specific guarantees and no implicit guarantees both. A listing on the wall or in some official technique doc is an implicit promise: “that is what we’re doing subsequent.“ There’s no official record of what we’re doing subsequent anyplace within the firm.

When Jason (CEO) and David (CTO) determined the corporate would spend X cycles constructing out HEY, they didn’t have a roadmap. They’d what they thought was an excellent set of choices. There have been sufficient good concepts for easy methods to flesh out the app that they felt assured saying “we’ll dedicate X cycles to this.” They selected which precise concepts to construct one cycle at a time.

The overwhelming majority of our good concepts have by no means been constructed and by no means shall be. There are issues we’ve badly wished to construct for years that also don’t exist. Why? One thing at all times got here up. And that’s okay!

As a result of we aren’t committing to a roadmap, we aren’t setting expectations. And since we don’t set expectations, we don’t really feel responsible when that nice thought by no means will get any construct time as a result of we determined one thing else was extra necessary.

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