“Build less, not more.”
“Half. Not half-assed.”
“Forget feature requests.”
If you are a web designer or developer, you are probably not used to hearing this type of feedback. Most marketing and development teams that I’ve worked with preach the exact opposite.
Enter 37signals, the company behind the BaseCamp project management software. They want to re-introduce the concepts of minimalism and simplicity and encourage teams to:
The book is billed as “a smaller, faster, better way to build software.” The principles are easy to understand, but do they work?
If you’re a design or development team with limited resources and defined constraints, then yes, the “Getting Real” approach can work for you.
If you’re a large team with sophisticated software and regulatory requirements, “Getting Real” may be too idealistic and therefore unrealistic.
How To Make it Work
Even large, bureaucratic teams can learn some valuable lessons from the “less is more” approach. Here are a couple of my favorite examples that run counter to popular belief:
Complex Problems can be Fixed with Simple Solutions (Build Less)
The answer is less. Do less than your competitors to beat them. Solve the simple problems and leave the hairy, difficult, nasty problems to everyone else. Instead of oneupping, try one-downing. Instead of outdoing, try underdoing.
Trim Scope, Don’t Extend Deadlines (Launch on Time)
If you can’t fit everything in within the time and budget allotted then don’t expand the time and budget. Instead, pull back the scope. There’s always time to add stuff later — later is eternal, now is fleeting.
Sounds Dreamy, But Is It Worth the Time?
Value is a relative term. But in terms of getting something for nothing, this book is a must-read. It’s fairly short and available for free online in its entirety. Or you can buy a $19 PDF or a $25 printed version.
At first, I was skeptical that such a simple process can be replicated with success. The more I read, the more I started to realize that even though the approach won’t work for every team on every project, there are nuggets of wisdom that can be applied to any project.
My recommendation: Take the time to read the book and skip any parts that don’t apply to your situation (how to staff a company, customer service, etc.) Use it as a “devil’s advocate” and try to re-think how you do things. Even if you can’t adopt any of the ideas, you will be forced to re-evaluate your own processes and workflows.
As Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”