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The soul of a new machine v the lean startup

“Not everything worth doing is worth doing well.” - Tom West

Reading ‘The Soul of a new machine’ by Tracy Kidder (1981) and this line really jumped out at me. It is written in the centre of an office by Tom West, who is managing the teams building a new computer. He writes it as the team is under immense time pressure to complete the project. When asked to explain it he answers “If you can do a quick-and-dirty job and it works, do it.” Reading this line reminded me of ‘The Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries in which he promotes the idea, followed by numerous startups, of the minimum viable product (MVP). Tom West’s whiteboard note echoes a lot that Eric Ries says, of how perfection is the enemy of getting things done. Later in the passage in ‘the soul of a new machine’ one of the junior developers comment that “the managers had probably known something he hadn't yet learned; that there's no such thing as a perfect design.” Compare this with ‘The Lean Startup’ where Eric Ries states that it is better to get something out there and continually test and refine it. Waiting until it is “perfect” will mean you are waiting forever!

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