Firetrucks and product ownership
I walked past a fire station the other day and saw a magnificent red fire truck sitting out front. Wow I thought, this machine has been cared for. You could see it’s proud chrome ornaments smiling, ready for anything in the world. From form to function, every thing was in it’s place. The perfectly folded hoses, coiled and waiting for action, knowing for certain they would not fail in time of need.
The firemen were out front hustling, cleaning, organizing. Their motions were like a sailor on a long voyage, calculated with years of practice. Every tool was touched, chainsaws started and pneumatic pumps tested. The fireman’s exuded care and passion. Their lives depended on these tools, they must work under tense situations, any doubt could cost precious seconds, while life hangs in balance.
The actual amount of time these tools were used in real-life situations must be a sliver compared to how often the test them. This seems common in our world, like most people working on tools, I build a product that I don’t use every day. This got me thinking, what if product teams could take a fireman’s approach to the tools we build for our customers? Practicing and using them with such fervor that using them became second nature? Polishing them so that everyone could be proud to show them off? Obviously this is pretty easy for someone at Instagram or Facebook, but seems unnatural for the vast majority of other products.
On my team, we’ve tried some different incentives, from a small stipend to spend with merchants on our platform, to user experience reviews were engineers attempt different tasks. You might think, testing features prior to rolling out is close enough. However, feature testing is very specific to that part, and you’re usually refining a specific use case you haven’t actually experienced! Other times you’re building something closer to a gas tank cap for a chainsaw.
I don’t have a solution, just a desire, and I’m truly curious what rituals teams could have to instill this type of thinking.