Andy Taylor

Andy Taylor

Stables and Volatiles

Nov 26, 2012 —

This piece by Michael Lopp is primarily about engineering, but it speaks to the entire process of making ‘things’ in teams. ‘Stables’ are process driven; they want to make safe things, the right way. ‘Volatiles’ are disrupters; they live for making the next amazing thing.

This part particularly struck home:

Once you’re successfully past 1.0, you have a choice: coast and die, or disrupt. No one in history has ever actually chosen coast and die; everyone thinks they’re choosing the path of continued disruption, but it’s a very different choice when it’s made by a Stable than by a Volatile. A Stable’s choice of disruption is within the context of the last war. They can certainly innovate, but they will attempt to do so within the box they bled to build. A second-generation Volatile will grin mischievously and remind you, “There is no box.”

You start a project with the craziest of ideas; some make it, some don’t. You end up with a good—sometimes great—thing, and some baggage from the process.

Within the context of that project, you may never be a Volatile again. You’ve got your thing, now you need to maintain it, you need to gradually make it better. You couldn’t possibly do that new feature with all that baggage, could you?

Will your thing ever be distinctly better unless you bring in some new Volatiles? Hopefully just being aware that you’re becoming a Stable is enough to somewhat counteract the fact that the baggage is undroppable.

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