It’s all about the middle: M & M & M Jason 05 Jan 2006

24 comments Latest by Andrew

In most things it’s how you start and how you finish that seem to matter most. What I’ve come to realize is that in software development it’s all about the middle.

The middle is about morale, motivation, and momentum. It’s easy to get excited when you first start something, and even easier to get excited when you’re about to launch something, but if you can’t maintain that excitement during the doldrums, then you’re in deep trouble.

Morale, motivation, and momentum are the most important software development tools you have — more important than software, more important than hardware. Certainly the type of software/hardware you choose to develop with can have a large impact on morale and motivation, but morale, motivation, and momentum are even more fundamental. They come from deep inside the product you’re developing. The people developing the product have to believe in it, they have to want it. If they don’t, the 3 M’s will suffer and the product will never achieve its potential.

So, as a manager, developer, investor, or whoever, keep an eye on the 3 Ms: Morale, motivation, and momentum. They’re the keys to happy people and happy people build great products.

24 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Elliott 05 Jan 06

JF: Are you experiencing some M&M&M right now with the launch of your products.

How you coping?

JF 05 Jan 06

Oh, mostly it’s me. I’m impatient so the middle is always tough for me.

Dan Boland 05 Jan 06

I know how true this is, and the larger the scope of the project, the harder it is to maintain that drive.

nb 05 Jan 06

This post sounds very similar to The Seven-Day Weekend; a great book, by the way.

In my experience, the best way to reduce that central development lull is to make achievable, recognizable, short-term goals. That way you can periodically look back and see what your efforts today and this week have accomplished in a very tangible way. Also, I find it helps to rejuvenate your motivation by talking about your project and/or progress with a close friend who recognizes the value of the final product. Their excitement is contagious.

How does one walk a hundred miles? One step at a time. Many thanks to whoever suggested Semler�s book on one of the previous SVN posts and to 37s for keeping SVN going.

Paul Watson 05 Jan 06

That middle plateau is a killer. I often find myself wanting to restart at that middle period, to rip up and redo.

Release early and release often?

Noah Winecoff 05 Jan 06

Thats a great concept that really hits home. Good words! Thanks for the daily dose of wisdom. And I couldn’t agree more with Paul, I’m dealing with that right now on my current project.

Rob Poitras 05 Jan 06

This doesn’t just apply to software dev., it can apply to most creative processes.

Jim Jeffers 05 Jan 06

So is that where you guys are on that Getting Real book I’ve been looking forward to. The middle?

Ebrahim 05 Jan 06

Excellent x 10.

I have this problem always, I feel charged at first and during launch, but I’ve a hard time while development. I keep thinking about the product negatively.

I wasn’t sure if it was normal, thanks so much for clearing it, Jason.

Luke 05 Jan 06


I just sent an email to the big boss man about this very thing. I hope you don’t mind if I direct him to this as a reference. I think that it is vital that management and people be attentive when the M’s are waning, and do something about it. The status quo, although it might ‘work’, isn’t always the best.

This was just what I needed on my lunch break to convince me to go back to work…Thanks!


JF 05 Jan 06

The book is done. We’re finishing up some last minute formatting. We hope to have it available for sale by the end of this month.

Alex 05 Jan 06

Hear, hear!

One thing that bothers me during development is the fact that I only know how I could’ve coded things better *after* the project is finished. Time and time again.

Thank God for Rails now :)

Jonas Haurum 05 Jan 06


PJ Hyett 05 Jan 06

This is so dead on.

Brad M. 05 Jan 06

“The book is done. We�re finishing up some last minute formatting. We hope to have it available for sale by the end of this month.”

Hey JF, I was hoping to find the answer (sorry if I missed it in my search), but do you anticipate if the book will be available for PDF download like the Agile Ruby on Rails book was? I know some people prefer softcopy, but having a laptop and being mobile, the PDFs are great for me!

I hope it will be!
Looking forward to it.


JF 05 Jan 06

Originally we were going to do PDF only, now I think we’re going to do print only, but we may do PDF as well. It’s really formatted for print at the 6x9 format so it doesn’t look great coming out of a printer at 8.5x11, but perhaps people won’t care about that. We’ll see.

Ian Ashley 05 Jan 06

100% Agree.

Marty 05 Jan 06

Absolutely spot on. I have to keep reminding myself of this, and as ‘nb’ said, above, keep creating micro targets for my projects.

I’m also reading The Seven-Day Weekend, after the previous post about Ricardo Semler — good stuff.

Jim Jeffers 05 Jan 06

Either way I’ll just be happy to buy the book :) Looking forward to reading it.

RyanA 07 Jan 06

Can we pre-order the books? :D

Andrew 09 Jan 06

I agree with Rob: the 3 Ms are vital to getting just about anything of any magnitude done. The conference paper I should be writing, for example…