The leaner you are, the easier it is to change
The more massive an object, the more energy is required to change its direction. It's as true in the business world as it is in the physical world.
When it comes to web technology, change must be easy and cheap. If you can't change on the fly, you'll lose ground to someone who can. That's why you need to shoot for less mass.
Mass is increased by...
- Long term contracts
- Excess staff
- Permanent decisions
- Meetings about other meetings
- Thick process
- Inventory (physical or mental)
- Hardware, software, technology lock-ins
- Proprietary data formats
- The past ruling the future
- Long-term roadmaps
- Office politics
Mass is reduced by...
- Just-in-time thinking
- Multi-tasking team members
- Embracing constraints, not trying to lift them
- Less software, less code
- Less features
- Small team size
- Pared-down interfaces
- Open-source products
- Open data formats
- An open culture that makes it easy to admit mistakes
Less mass lets you change direction quickly. You can react and evolve. You can focus on the good ideas and drop the bad ones. You can listen and respond to your customers. You can integrate new technologies now instead of later. Instead of an aircraft carrier, you steer a cigarette boat. Revel in that fact.
For example, let's imagine a lean, less mass company that has built a product with less software and less features. On the other side is a more mass company that's got a product with significantly more software and more features. Then let's say a new technology like Ajax or a new concept like tagging comes around. Who is going to be able to adapt their product quicker? The team with more software and more features and a 12-month roadmap or the team with less software and less features and a more organic "let's focus on what we need to focus on right now" process?
Obviously the less-mass company is in a better position to adjust to the real demands of the marketplace. The more-mass company will likely still be discussing changes or pushing them through its bureaucratic process long after the less-mass company has made the switch. The less mass company will be two steps ahead while the more mass company is still figuring out how to walk.
Nimble, agile, less-mass businesses can quickly change their entire business model, product, feature set, and marketing message. They can make mistakes and fix them quickly. They can change their priorities, product mix, and focus. And, most importantly, they can change their minds.