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The Big Secret of Small Improvements

A small improvement on its own is significant, but together they make a huge impact.

Every other Monday¹, we stop everything we’re doing and devote our day to making our product just a little bit better. All startups have more work than available resources and focus is most important. However, focus often leads to the neglect of small product details.

Torii isn’t any different. We have a backlog of ideas, stories, and tasks to last a lifetime.

Every day we see opportunities for small improvements, but they aren’t significant enough to rise above the main feature roadmap and take priority.

 

What should we do?

A small animation we added on a Quick-fix day²

 
Quick-fix days

Our solution is to have a full day dedicated to such small improvements, or quick-fixes, as we call them.

We keep a backlog of small UI bugs, mini-additions to features, text updates, speeding things up, removing unused features, and more. Each one of us can get to 5–6 tasks and make a small yet big impact on the product.

Loaders are an excellent example of small details that matter³
 
Why?

I’ve made a list of all the good things that come with a “quick-fix” day:

  • Ideas.
    Everyone has ideas, from the CEO to the developer who joined your team just this morning. Adding these ideas as quick-fixes allows everyone to suggest an improvement and actually see it happen.
  • Focus.
     Since there’s a dedicated day for small fixes, the other days are available to focus entirely on the most important tasks. Everything that is extra, related or just a good idea on its own — now has a place to live.
  • Customers.
     Say YES to customers when they ask for small improvements. No more, “Good idea, we’ll consider it”. When Monday comes to an end, you’ll have a list of customers who’ll get an email with the good news.
  • Team.
    Marketing and sales people who have to ask for favors from developers are a sign of poor product management.
    Now there’s an official way to get things done, without going through a chain of team leaders and managers.
  • Debt.
    Product and technical debt can be addressed here instead of letting them pile up.
Tips

Here’s how to conduct your very own “Quick-fix” day:

  1. Monday.
    Schedule this day as the first day of the week, otherwise, it is easily neglected.
  2. Always.
    Never cancel this day even if deadlines are tight. Take these days into account when estimating due dates for features.
  3. Prioritize.
    Keep a priority list, but allow some degree of freedom when choosing the tasks for the day.
    Some developers can use this to clean up code or work on an improvement they’ve suggested.
  4. Quick.
    If a task is expected to take more than a day, do not start working on it. All tasks must be completed by the end of the day. If a task is longer, prioritize it with other tasks.
  5. Small chunks.
    Each quick fix should have its own branch to ensure changes are deployed. Be prepared to Code Review a lot of small changes and make time for that during the day or in the last 20%-30% of it.
  6. Well defined.
    Only work on tasks that are properly defined. Prefer “Make content scrollable” over “Bug: can’t see content when scrolling”.
  7. Thank you.
    There’s nothing like hearing a customer say “Thank you!”. When a quick-fix comes from a customer suggestion, let the developer email him and tell him the good news.

In conclusion

I suggest this for every product-led company. The process ensures top quality and gives you the opportunity to build a unique and well-crafted product.

Foot notes
  1. We actually start our weeks on Sunday and end them on Thursday. So our quick-fix days are on Sunday.
  2. I always add an Emoji to my name, to test Emoji support across the web, emails, and mobile.
  3. The content loads much faster on our web-app, but I slowed it down for the GIF.

 

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