Investment Fridays

By Matt Mercieca on 07 09 2015

It’s wrong.

There’s a dashboard in our office, a web page that displays some statistics about our company. It shows the time, our web traffic trends, some information about this blog, and a few other things. I worked on one of those indicators as part of my new hire orientation.

And it’s wrong.

The current data is fine but it’s not showing the trend properly. I’m not sure anyone else has noticed, but it's really bugging me. My consolation is that I’ll have a chance to fix my bug on Friday.

Investment Fridays

Investment Fridays began in our Columbus office and we've recently adopted them in Grand Rapids too. Other places do similar things. At Google there is 20% time and Atlassian has shipit days, but I wouldn't trade either of them for Mutually Human's Investment Fridays.

Investment Fridays solve an interesting problem: they allow us to effectively balance our client work while investing time and energy back into our own company.

All businesses require a certain amount of investment: there are new people to hire and grow the company, there are accounts to reconcile, and there’s always something new to try— experimentation is especially important in technology. But this upkeep can also be a distraction from the work that makes the business profitable. In our case, that’s working for clients.

To keep focused and balanced, we've divided the week. Monday through Thursday is the clients’ time. Fridays we invest in Mutually Human.

They're a Win for Our Clients

When Investment Fridays were first brought up to me, my reaction was, “Sounds great for us, but how do you get clients to accept it?”

It didn’t take long for someone to show me the bigger picture. Our clients no longer have to ask if we're available for a standup or impromptu phone call; they know we are. They know that for four days straight their work will not be interrupted and their product will be better because of that focus.

They're a Win for Us

Experimentation is an investment that, quite often, and quite unfortunately, gets pushed to the sidelines. It's incredibly disappointing when it is because it almost always pays off in the long run.

Experimenting with new languages and devices is how I keep my skills up-to-date. It's also how I got into programming in the first place. I was fascinated by the things I could make a computer do just by typing in slightly different commands and that feeling never went away. I was fortunate enough to find a profession where that curiosity is not just accepted, it's highly valued.

Now when Apple surprises us with a new language I have time to learn it and see what it can do. Later, if I want to test an elevation API, I have time to grab a ladder or run up and down the stairs to test a prototype I've written. I see my coworkers doing similar things, improving themselves and the product we have to offer.

As critical as experimentation is, our Investment Fridays are more than that. We automatically get the efficiency of batching our maintenance to a single day; we don’t lose time in switching contexts. The few meetings we require take less time because we’ve had dedicated time to prepare.

By setting aside Fridays, we also have time for intermittent activities. Mutually Human is hiring and by interviewing only on Fridays our client's schedules aren't affected. Three day holiday weekends also come out of our time, which simplifies planning.

They're a Win for Our Community

They also give us time to share what we’re doing. We can write blog posts about the practices we’ve adopted. We can prepare talks for user groups or conferences or go the extra step and help organize them.

In a way, this community investment doubles as an investment for our clients. A lot of our development is with open source packages: Ember, Rails, AngularJS, and others. We don't want to keep our bug fixes and work arounds to ourselves. When we find a solution to a problem in those packages, we contribute fixes and features back to those projects. That development happens on Fridays.

Speaking of solving a problem, it’s time to get back to fixing my bug.