just dans

Making programming (everything) more accessible

26 Apr 2021

Trust the Process

At various retrospectives and postmortems the past few weeks, there’s been a clear pattern. When a project has gone well, it turns out we’ve followed our process. Someone sees a need, writes a design doc, gets feedback on that design doc, starts building, puts whatever they’re building in front of customers, fixes it up or starts over from scratch, rolls out to a broader audience, then blogs about it. When we take those steps in that order, good things happen.

When a project hasn’t been going well, it usually turns out we haven’t been following the process. These projects tend to happen “off balance-sheet.” No one really owns the project. Or several people sort of do. Or it has a clear owner but it’s not that owner’s top priority. We don’t have a design doc. We haven’t created an Asana board. In short, we’re kidding ourselves. We know this project has to get done, but we don’t want to stop working on any other project, so we say we’ll do it without taking the steps to make sure we actually deliver.

The good news is that misfiring projects are rare enough to stand out! And we have an abundance of well-run projects to look to for inspiration! If we can get all our projects onto The Process™, we’ll be all set. The game will turn from making sure we’re doing what we said we’d do into making sure we’re picking the right things to work on.

The sobering news is that even on a team full of smart, autonomous people who clearly own their projects, things tend toward disorganization. The flagship projects will happen of their own accord, but the behind-the-scenes projects and tasks will happen unevenly or not at all. There’s no way around it. You have to eat your vegetables. And update the board.

It helps that Replit’s process grew out of us writing down how the best projects flowed. We took what worked when Replit was five people and codified it. We have to take more time to write things down now that we’re pushing thirty full-time employees. People at companies that have grown quickly often reminisce about the good old days. The tonic for that nostalgia is to capture how things worked in those good old days and keep doing them