Pace, not Deadlines
This post is part of a series about our VERY FEW company policies. Read this intro post for some context.
At Balsamiq, we don't have deadlines. Ever.
It seems so natural to me, but I sometimes get reminded of how uncommon this is for software companies.
It may be because we're small and it might change in the future, but the few times I've tried to set a deadline so far, things quickly started to go south.
We started stressing out, not enjoying our work as much and, ultimately, not doing our best work.
Since we're bootstrapped, profitable and independent, our only pressure comes from our customers, and from our own urge to do great stuff (we don't really look at what the competition is doing, so they're not really a factor, at least for now).
I also value work/life balance immensely, and believe employee burnout is a one of the worst things that can happen to a small business.
So ever since I started, I have been talking internally about pace.
The metaphor I use is about driving a stick-shift car: sometimes we go in 4th gear, sometimes in 5th, but sometimes we have to go in 2nd or 1st, it's just the way it is.
In general, we should strive to hum along in 4th gear. If 5th gear happens, that's awesome. If 3rd gear happens, that's fine too. If it's August and the whole dev team is on holiday at the same time and we spend a week in 1st gear, so be it. It's just temporary.
Being in 5th gear all the time is dangerous, and being stuck on the highway in 2nd gear sucks.
Another metaphor is of a huge holiday meal: it's all good, and there's lots and lots of it. If you eat too much at first, you won't have room for the rest. Slow down a bit and save some for tomorrow and the next day!
We could hire more developers or outside contractors to build our features faster, but that would mean that
- someone other than us works on the stuff we love to do and
- we'll get a ton done right away and then have nothing fun left to do next year, and all these people sitting around.
"Founders at Work" taught me that first-to-market is totally overrated. In fact, most successful companies were 2nd or 3rd to their market, learning from their precursor's mistakes. Mockups wasn't the first wireframing tool out there.
What do you think? Am I being naive? Why do people set deadlines? I'm genuinely curious about it. Let's discuss in the comments! :)
Hope this helps,
Peldi for the Balsamiq team