(This is one of a set of notes from my work coaching founders, CEOs and technical leaders in the tech industry. Originally published in the “Leadership, Management and Being Human” newsletter)
The issue that came up in the coaching session was: when to stop meeting and write some code? My client, a senior software engineer, knew in his bones that more meetings wouldn’t move the project forward, but a week of him coding a prototype would. But how to communicate that without appearing to just arrogantly blow off the team?
“Code Wins Arguments” has been around for a while. This is from the Facebook S1 filing:
“Instead of debating for days whether a new idea is possible or what the best way to build something is, hackers would rather just prototype something and see what works”.
Classic! “Hackers would rather…”. Of course they would! No more stupid meetings, we’re just going to build it and you guys can sort it out later! Cool! The implied context is an argument and the outcome is a win – which means a defeat for somebody.
So I’ve been bouncing along using my iPhone, iPad and Macs for years, and, like the proverbial frog in boiling water, have been putting up with stuff. I won’t bore you with a list of irritations — we all have them (*oh, OK, I’ll put one at the bottom of the post). I had workarounds. I rebooted regularly. And then on Monday I read Jean-Louis Gassee and found myself nodding in recognition — quality problems! bad design choices! — and the water suddenly seemed pretty frickin’ hot:
I’ve gotten a bad feeling about Apple’s software quality management. “It Just Works”, the company’s pleasant-sounding motto, became an easy target, giving rise to jibes of “it just needs more work”
It turns out his awakening was triggered by Marco Arment’s post which in turn started a general pile on (he later posted that he regretted his original — but the train was many miles away by that time, and gathering speed).
I have tremendous admiration for what Apple has achieved in the past fifteen years. The tech world has never seen anything like it, and may not for a while. Heck, the business world has never seen anything like it. So rather than putting our own boot in , let’s look at how this can happen, even in a very highly functioning company like Apple, and maybe learn some things about how we can avoid a Quality WTF of our own.
Establish in the Culture that Quality Matters
Easy to say. In fact, almost everybody says it. Executives love to say it (I’ve done it myself). Doing it takes work, and a real prioritization of effort at multiple levels of the organization. Here are some suggestions: