The problem with “we’ll fix it later”

I was talking to a design team yesterday and one of the team members casually mentioned that they were launching something new. I took a quick look at what they were planning to launch and it was clear that something wasn’t quite right…there was a weird UI bug and some data looked off. So I pointed those things out and was told “Oh yeah, we know. We’re going to fix it later”.

Those words, so subtle. I’ve said them many times. I’ve had the exact same attitude at a release. But the more I hear them the more I realize they’re deadly. Consider the negative effects they have:

  1. Your customers get a lower quality product. You know it and they know it, and so what are their expectations going forward? They’re going to be lower, and that’s a slippery slope you don’t want to start down. Release quality sets expectations.
  2. Almost as importantly you send the wrong signal to the product team. By putting out less than your very best product, you’re saying it’s OK to do less than your best work. This is poisonous. You might not see the effects in the short-term but the long-term effects of this sentiment cannot be understated. In effect you’re creating a culture where it’s OK to do mediocre work.
  3. You’re accruing product debt. No product team that I know of gets done a release and doesn’t have a whole list of things to work on next. There is always at least a backlog of next features to work on so it’s never as simple as fixing the things you couldn’t before release. And many, many times the small things that were released with the promise of being “fixed later” don’t actually get addressed at all…some issues never get fixed!

I’m a big believer in the power of words and the words “we’ll fix it later”, while seemingly innocuous, are actually preventing you from releasing the very best product you can. So the next time you hear them push back hard and realize that if there is something worth fixing it’s always better to fix it before release rather than after. The real signal that you’re following this idea is when you actually delay a release because your product is not the best it can be for your customers.

Published: December 23rd, 2014