On Over Engineering


I love my (lazy) engineer.

danspinosa:

During our meeting with Fred Wilson last week he mentioned something fairly obvious about our company: we have too few engineers  (i.e. just me).  He was making the point that one particular path for our company could see it thrive (netting a few million a year in profits) with a small 10-12 person staff (7 engineers or so).  But it started me thinking about it from the other angle: what if we had too many engineers?

I firmly believe one of the reasons startups create some of the most beautiful and expertly crafted products is that they have limited resources with which to produce them.  Startups therefore, by necessity, build only to create value and build the smallest solution possible.  This viewpoint is bolstered by 37signals’ Getting Real, Paul Graham in many of his excellent essays, and the principle of least effort (or path of least resistance, if you will).  It’s why Rob Pacheco [my dad, a chef] says, “to find the most efficient way to accomplish a task, give it to the laziest guy in the kitchen.”

Conversely, when a startup grows (or starts) too big, it produces decreasingly beautiful products.  Engineers, by definition, like to engineer.  An average engineer - which most of them are, by definition of the word average - will not achieve perfection.  Since these engineers have to do something with their time, the company they work for ends up with an over-engineered product (by definition!).  It is the rare exception (i.e. Apple) that can produce many beautiful products by the labor of many engineers.

-A Lazy Engineer