What It Takes to Ship

Introspection into the ways we work often leads to dependance on tools and methodologies as a way of structuring plans, approaching problems, and choosing what we do. Even when we start moving away from practicing methods to practicing mindfulness, we can find that our work gets done easier but we still lack the grit it takes to put our work into the world.

Seth Godin recently reset the focus from the methodologies we use to the act of shipping itself:

Perhaps you can quote the GTD literature chapter and verse, understand lean and MVP and the modern meeting standard. Maybe you now delete your emails with a swipe. It’s possible you’ve read not just this blog but fifty others, every day, and understand go to market strategies and even have a virtual assistant to dramatically increase your productivity.

That’s great. But the question remains, “what have you shipped?”

Without shipping, the things you do are just self indulgent; the good work you do, wasteful. The industry of productivity tends to focus on the ways to get work done but shipping requires something from much deeper than our work itself.

In an intense development cycle where process failed my team, my own tools became too complex to maintain under the time pressure, and I had to choose to let things fall through the cracks, any methodologies I’ve learned quickly crumpled. The systems I had set up were idealistic. OmniFocus became a train wreck and Trello, our software project management tool, gathered dust. When I had to make decisions between spending my time maintaining pristine feature boards and bug queues or putting my head down and coding (I’m not even really a developer), the systems were sacrificed to get us steps closer to finishing. Even with these core process and systems failures we shipped on time and without a single blindsiding issue. My team hasn’t done a project at this scale together or with the time constraints we had to deal with. There were outside issues we had to fight through to stay focused. There was frustration, conflict, and fear. With all of this around us, what made us pull through wasn’t “productivity.”

We shipped because we’ve shipped before.

The tools that help us every day can hurt us when we’re in the thick of hard work. We can rely on systems that don’t fit with work which has evolved. The scaffolding we build functions under the standard day-to-day but when that changes, we personally need to be prepared to do what it takes to ship. The only way to prepare ourselves for that is not practicing productivity, but shipping over and over again.