David Heinemeier Hansson

February 24, 2023

Get out of momentum's way

It can take a long time and be tricky business to get a gaggle of humans rolling in the same, right direction. When it finally happens, you feel it. The pace is effortless. The interactions are easy. This is the moment when momentum asks you to get out of the way. The easiest way to mess up a good thing is to mess with it at all. Just leave it alone and marvel at the magic!

But many managers find this hard to do, because messing with the process, the team, the mission is what they do! Sitting on their hands, or at least just polishing the edges, is not a response that comes natural to most professional managers. However much better off their companies would be if it did.

I credit much of the productivity we've been able to yield from a small team at our company to this concept: Not messing with momentum's magic. And I think the reason Jason and I have been able to do this is because management is not our first love. It's a hat to wear when the occasion calls, then one we happily put back on the shelve when the deed is done.

At eighty people, we do have a couple of folks that just do management. But just a couple! The vast majority of everyone at 37signals are working in the trenches, and leading from the front.

This relative lack of full-time managers means the temptation to mess with what ain't broken just largely isn't there. So many other pursuits call out for our attention – designing, programming, writing, and judoing the product calls. 

Idle managerial hands run's the devil's workshop. Make sure they all have a hobby to soak up the excess energy, should it present itself.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.