Your productivity comes first

Let’s pretend that instead of shipping software, you are selling beer.

You have the best beer in the world. Customers love it. Orders are pouring in.

As a matter of fact, you have your first big order: a restaurant has ordered 10 truckloads of beer: life is good. Swept up by the enthusiasm you hire a “business consultant” to come in and help you get to “the next level”.

The consultant comes in and, after much research delivers you two data points to act upon

  • You could sell twice as much if you only added a tangerine flavored beer
  • You can only produce one bottle of beer per hour.

Which of the two do you think matters the most? Hopefully your eyes popped when you read that you can only produce one bottle of beer per hour. Obviously it does not matter how big of a sale you make, how much your customers like your beer, or how many flavors you can sell, if you cannot make nearly enough beer to stay in business.

What does that mean in software

A software company does not sell beer, but it does sell customer experiences, solutions, features. For simplicity, compare a “feature” to a bottle of beer. It does not matter what wonderful feature you have dreamed up, or how many customers are ready to pay you in gold nuggets for it IF YOU CANNOT DELIVER IT.

From an engineering perspective, the first necessary condition for you to be able to be in business is that your team needs to be able to deliver. It needs to be Productive.

Everything else, your profit, your feature set, your customer happiness, is a function of how productive your team is.

What it means in practice:

You should be doing what Satya Nadella did as part of his Microsoft turnaround, when he sent a company wide directive stating:

  • There cannot be a more important thing for an engineer, for a product team, than to work on the systems that drive our own productivity
  • So I would, any day of the week, trade off beer flavors features for our own productivity.
  • I want our best engineers to work on our engineering systems, so that we can later on come back and build all of the new concepts we want.

What are you doing?

How about your company? Are you laser focused on increasing your own productivity, or does most of your engineering team focus on new features?

Food for thought.

Actually – beer for thought.

Leave a Comment