Issue #10: Pioneers and Settlers
All software projects could benefit from teams that are a mix of Pioneers and Settlers.
Pioneers are the people who go first, constantly exploring different paths but always traveling in the same direction, until they emerge from the other side. They mark the trail for the people who come after.
Settlers come in behind. Things are slower, and hauling more people and goods leads to new problems to overcome. After they make it out the other side, they establish roots and grow an enduring community.
Both types of people require different skills and mindsets yet both are valuable in their own right. One values freedom, exploration, and risk. The other values safety, consistency, and conservation.
When it comes to software, Pioneers take the "initial stab", explore new options, test new ideas, challenge the status quo, and continually seek new ways to do things. This looks like building prototypes, initial greenfield development, attending conferences, tinkering with new tech, and proposing "big" ideas.
Settlers take what the pioneers build and tend to it, making it endure over time. This looks like improving the user experience, making it more stable, adding process, documentation, tests, observability, and handling support. During that process, they uncover underlying issues or problems that hadn't been considered before.
This is a constant cycle. Settlers become restless and turn into Pioneers. Pioneers decide it's time to settle down. Someone could be both, at different times in their career.
For a successful and enduring software project, avoid building a team consisting of people who only have the one tendency.
Too many Pioneers and you may not produce something that can endure or be maintained. Too many Settlers and you may not radically improve or discover a new way to do something. There needs to be a constant mix.
If you're working by yourself, it helps to adopt both mindsets at different phases of the project. If you're working on a team, it helps to understand what side each of your teammates tends to fall on.