Part of the reason we focus teams around jobs to be done is to honor a promise Shopify tries to make and keep to its merchants. We never want merchants to bump into the ceiling that says, I love this product, but it’s not scaling to meet my needs. Now I have to go do the really painful thing of moving my entire business onto some other platform.
I think Tobi just does not agree with that philosophy of product development and thinks that you end up with a lot of micro-optimizations of local maxima that may say you drove that number up, but the product just doesn’t feel good anymore. The product doesn’t fit well together, and it feels like one part is pushing me in one direction and the other part in another. You can’t really explain why that is until you find out that there were two teams inside the company who had different metrics they were optimizing for. That’s when you realize why the product is so weird and incohesive.
So that’s kind of the lay of the land in terms of planning. Themes once a year, which gets translated into a six-month plan, and then there are four six-week cycles inside each half.
But again, things are changing so much right now. The world economy just went upside down last year, and that changed things. The world of AI appeared earlier this year, and that changed things. So I think we’ve learned the hard way that the world doesn’t seem to be slowing down, and being able to react and not being married to the plan is actually the most important thing.
This org structure that we’re in right now, it has downsides to it (e.g. very large teams that require a lot of centralized coordination), but the big upside is that the org chart and the actual product are very close to the same thing (e.g. we are respecting Conway’s law). This helps us deliver on what our merchants want: products that work well together and are all aimed in a single, consistent direction.
We want teams to think about the whole spectrum. Everyone from my mom, if she wants to get started selling pottery tomorrow, all the way up to big brands like Supreme. We don’t want there to be any rough edges on that curve. As a merchant’s business gets bigger, we don’t want there to be a weird moment where Shopify flips into enterprise mode, where suddenly everything’s different. We want that to be a smooth curve all the way up, and we just need every team to care about that, so there is no “Enterprise Team” or “Small Business Team”; each team needs to think about “hello world through to IPO” for their features.
AAA framework, which is basically three parts: Aiming: strategy and direction of what we are building Assembling: operational stuff to bring the right people together and keep them on track Achieving: the day-to-day work of getting shit done (GSD) like design, code, etc.
The other thing we have is a super-high quality bar. We’re constantly asking, “Is this good enough? Are we proud of this?” Honestly, the main motto inside of Shopify is this kind of mantra. It goes: The number-one priority is to make the best product in the world for our merchants. Our second priority is to make some money so we can do more of number one. The third priority is never to reverse priorities one and two.
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