I’d be happy if 37signals is the last place I work. In an industry so focused on the booms and busts, I find myself a kindred spirit with the firms of old. Places where people happily reported to work for 40 years, picking up a snazzy gold watch at the end as a token of life-long loyalty.
Committing myself to this long-term focus has led to a peaceful work atmosphere and an incredible clarity of purpose. If this is the last job I’ll ever have, I damn well better make sure that I like it. I won’t just tough things out. If shit is broken, we’ll fix it now, lest we be stuck with it for decades.
Two key ideas help inform this dedication. The first is Alistair Cockburn’s metaphor of software development as a co-operative game. Focusing on the residue of knowledge and practices carried over from game to game is far more important than worrying about the output of any one game.
Working people to death to ship any one feature or product is a poor strategy, as it reduces the capacity to ship the next feature or product (burn out, build-up of bad rush practices). It’s far more important to have a system for shipping that improves over the long term than one that heroically manages one monster push.
Second is Jeff Bezos’ idea: “What’s not going to change over the next 10 years?” If you’re going to stick around for decades, you’re better off making investments in things that’ll pay off for a very long time. It applies both to software and peopleware.
Of course, not everyone is at a stage in their life where they’re willing to settle down with a job for decades. But I find I enjoy working most with the people who are.
If you’re not committed to your life’s work in a company and with people you could endure for decades, are you making progress on it?