Planning for plans

2019-09-27

People want to make cool new things. So they do, and for a while it’s good.

Then someone realizes that the cool new thing is making money, and they decide to exert some control. They want to make more cool new things, or make them on a better, more predictable schedule. So they analyze the process and find a way to guide it. They make a plan, get the market all hyped and set a release date. For a while, that’s good too.

But it’s all still pretty chaotic, so eventually someone makes a plan to control the plan. Then someone makes a plan to control that plan. Every plan has communication headaches, schedules that have to be managed, adjusted and managed again, and layers and layers of people making plans about plans and hardly anybody is making cool new things.

This is how bureaucracies form. And as frustrating and superficially wasteful as it is, bureaucracy seems to be the best way to handle making cool new things at scale. But if you’re in a bureaucracy like this, try to remember that the plans on top of plans are not the point. They’re window dressing on top of making something cool. The plans will resist you, but you can push back if you know their tricks.