Skip to the content.

Aaron Burr quotes on the lean startup

My kids have been listening to the “Hamilton” soundtrack a lot. When I was Googling for something to answer a question for them, I came across this quote attributed to Aaron Burr:

Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow. Delay may give clearer light as to what is best to be done.

Throughout the show, Burr is maligned for not taking clear stands on anything, preferring to wait and see which way the wind blows. In software, though, starting small, staying flexible and changing direction as new information becomes available is often the right thing to do. This is the whole idea behind a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), popularized by the Lean Startup. The main idea is to delay engineering effort until you have a chance to learn more, and to focus effort on the activities that will maximize that learning, through tight feedback loops with stakeholders.

The same sentiment is expressed by 37signals as “it’s a problem when it’s a problem”. Their advice is to wait to make decisions until you have more information available, and to delay solving problems that haven’t happened yet. Similarly, one of the principles in the Agile Manifesto is to maximize the “amount of work not done” to focus on the things that are the most valuable. For example, when launching a new product or service, it’s better to get an initial launch out quickly to test demand before making big investments in scalability; that way, if the demand isn’t there, you can pivot and “fail fast” with a lower level of investment.

These methodologies are a true discipline of their own, quite the opposite of “standing for nothing.”

Written on October 9, 2016