infographic content from Jason Cohen’s Friday Reflections
Our founder Jason Cohen points out the differences about these “two modes” of engineering in this infographic which I use regularly to frame how my teams are thinking about approaching a problem.
Why Does this Matter?
At WP Engine we’re not just an engineering department, we’re a research & development department.
What Does that Mean?
That means we’re actively experimenting with dozens of new ideas & technologies on a daily basis to discover what is the next big thing we can do for our customers. The trick is we need to balance that experimentation with simultaneously building robust, resilient, and reliable systems to support a wildly scaling business…or at least I thought we needed to do these things simultaneously…turns out we do need both — but just not at the same time.
They’re two different strategic modes, Innovation vs Scale, that are symbiotic — rapid learning and discovery from innovation intelligently feeds longer term strategic decision making that scales.
What’s the Difference?
Using these adjectives and questions to frame which mode the team should be operating in on an individual project or initiative is extremely helpful in focusing everyone on solving the right problems. This also helps teams avoid pitfalls such as premature code optimization which ultimately leads to a decrease in the total cost and lead time of learning. The gorgeous part about the approach is the quicker we can learn – the quicker we can identify the next #1 best feature to build that helps our customers win online — which is why we’re in R&D in the first place!
On the other side the value does not diminish! Once the team has made an investment decision in building a new system or feature to last – we can justify spending the time to construct enterprise-grade solutions that are automated, scale, and fail gracefully in the real world. It’s a completely different mode, but the team has a guide now to call that out and help frame the scale decisions to leadership and has confidence from their innovation activities that they’re making a big bet on the right thing.
How does your team think about engineering modes?