The rock pebble and the sand

My notes on product development “Rock, Pebble, Sand” -style

The rock, the pebble and the sand

The simple premiss is that you fill up a jar, first the rocks, then the pebbles, then the sand.

  • The rocks, the big features, new products
  • The pebble, the feature, the design tweaks
  • The sand, the fixes, the adjustments, the minor tweaks

Defining your roadmap “Rock, pebble, sand” -style

You need some rocks, but make sure you make room for pebbles and sand

  • The rocks you ship now and then, every quarter, or every year etc
  • The pebbles you ship monthly
  • The sand you deal with all the time, and ship everyday, every week at least

Unicorn Inc 1 year roadmap:

Most roadmaps just bundle everything in one, and it’s hard for the reader to differentiate and or understand impact or how challenging the implementation was / will be

Rocks 🗿(Quarterly)

  • Onboarding platform
  • Optimize speed of delivery 2x
  • Materialize v2 UI / UX design platform
  • Launch communication platform v2

Pebbles 💎(Monthly)

  • Add support for instagram integration
  • Build a way to sign up beta users
  • Add support for stripe payments
  • Add support for slack integration

Sand ⏳(Everyday I’m hustling)

  • Fix bug where user doesn’t see prefs panel when going from A to B
  • Fix Facebook integration issue from corp account
  • Caching issues see log
  • Document the new module
  • Make Automatic tests before all pub deployments
  • Refactor old module XYZ

Why is this important?

Because establishments have a tendency of only wanting rocks and pebbles, under emphasising the importance of the sand. After all Sand makes up 33% of the content in a optimally arranged jar. But shipping sand doesn’t look so good as shipping rocks or pebbles. Sand just doesnt feel concrete. It doesn’t easily fit on to a millstone chart, or roadmap. But if you ignore accounting for the sand, soon enough you wont be able to add sand to the bottom or mid parts of the jar. As the pebbles will have clogged together and formed a seal. The only way to then get more sand in is to shake the jar. And that is expensive, the jar may crack, you sometimes have to take out everything and put it back in, which is time consuming. So the way to go about this is to add rocks, then pebbles, then sand. In equal amounts as time progress. Adding only rocks for as long as possible only creates a suboptimal product.

Dark Agile (⚠️️ wip Needs posetive spin ⚠️️)

So it usually goes like this: How can we get from A to B faster? Lets just focus on shipping Rocks and pebbles. Don’t worry about the sand. We don’t have time for that. Time is money. couple of months and years later and you get products like Boeing 787 Max 🛩💥. The take-away? Plan and make time for the sand. It’s there if you want it or not. And you have to deal with it. Ignoring it will only cause side-effects that are much more costly than what you think you can save by ignoring it. Planing for sand also makes for much healthier economies, as its more realistic and friendlier for the workers. If you want to go faster there are alot of better alternatives than ignoring the sand. Its just that sand seems like a cheap solution. If you want to go fast, you can hire more people. Buy up companies. Finance research etc. Or pay people more / give better incentives.

Draw the parrallel to playing music. Focus on the essential right? Well think about a music play. The notes are the essentials, but there are no notes without the spaces in between. Sand is the inbetween. You have to make room for it.

Rushing a solution is the same as ignoring the sand. Think about a sinus wave. A project is similar to this kind of wave, in the begining its volitile, moving up and down rapidly. After a while it settles and finds its natural rythem. But in the beginning its really important that you pull and test and fail forward. Until you find the solution that fits the case. Sometimes that isnt the abvious first idea. Sometimes it takes some pulling and turbulence to finds that one really good sinus wave. This is especially true when it comes to divergent tasks. Convergent tasks usually have a clear path from A to B. But the exotic elements come out of divergent pursuits not convergent ones.

Wading around in sand

If you never take care of cleaning up the sand, you will forever walk around in a quagmire trying to move pebbles and rocks around. All the while you add more sand. Solution is simple. Take a brom and spend some time cleaning up the sand, then move around the pebbles and rocks with ease. rinse repeat.