Banner: Launch Lag
Amanda Marcotte, High Seas

Amanda Marcotte

November 4, 2019

Launch Lag: Ideas for Refueling and Retooling

Here at High Seas we just launched a rather large project.

Well, that’s a bit of an understatement. 10+ folks working for 8 months on a big, complex, interconnected system (which, as it happens was ideated and begun in pieces over 3 years ago).

After launch and a few days of hot-fixes last week we are all feeling entirely spent. We care so much about our clients that we were all personally and emotionally invested. So the excitement of (finally!) launching quickly overwhelmed us with relief, which — after the adrenaline of the last few weeks was all spent — gave way to something akin to mental exhaustion.

We are in the depths of launch-lag.

Much like that classic time-zone traveling malaise…grogginess, flu-like achiness, crankiness, desire to sleep or wake at odd hours. Oh yes, launch-lag is a very real thing.

So how do we combat this?

Plenty of water. Ok so that goes without saying, but maybe if you see a developer arise from the computer, re-entering the world blinking like a deer-in-headlights…just put a glass of water in their hand. They probably need it.

Days off! Remember that long-ago life you used to have before the all-nighters and bug-hunt obsessions? Were there things you used to like and find exciting? Don’t you have a cat somewhere? How’s your family?

We care so much about our clients that we were all personally and emotionally invested.

Exercise. Institute hourly jumping-jack breaks. Or get a yoga instructor to come in before lunch. Let’s give our brains a break and foster team building through commiserating over how awfully unfit we are and how much we hate the person who made us do jumping jacks.

Free Days. Remember when you were in some class in school and there were those days that the teacher was like “I don’t care what you work on just do something and be quiet?” and then you spent the entire hour filling up your folder with doodles of Zelda characters and felt pretty proud of yourself and then went and aced your math exam? Maybe there’s something to be said for “Hey, go find something interesting to do.” for a day.

Put the Retro on hold. Whether you call it a “retrospective” or a “post mortem” or “the bosses want to tell you all the things you did wrong.” … it can wait. The best way to kill the team spirit and launch-high is to try to have constructively critical conversations. Everybody is tired and grumpy and you’re not getting anything good out of this. Give it a little bit, until the team shows signs of improvement inspiration on their own. Then call a chat.

Small Rewards. It’s important to motivate and encourage hard work all the time, and especially during the weeks leading up to launch. But the cleanup and moving forward process is often more grueling with less intrinsic motivation. Set (very) short-term goals and rewards (think stickers, gummy bears, a rotating team-voted lunch recipient). The congratulatory launch goodwill doesn’t have to spend itself all in one day.

Pick fun tasks. When you’re back to the grind and ready to dive in to work you don’t want to have weeks full of “this thing is broken and I hate it”. Sprinkle in some feature or code enhancements that will show some measurable impact or make somebody’s life better. Let the team decide what things they want to work on, in addition to things they have to work on.

Short days. If you’re a team that pushes through a launch while only working 9–5 days then bully for you (and you probably don’t even need to read this blog). For the rest of us, stuff comes up and deadlines loom and the next thing we know it’s 2 am and we’re still in the office and who drank all the Red Bull? In the week or two after launch set a strict schedule (with a designated daily on-call debugger if needed). Make everybody leave work at 5 and dock them (meaningless) points if they appear online before 9 am the next day. There’ll be time enough for working overtime, but the post-launch lull isn’t it.

Get off the Internet. We forget how much energy is invested in bits and bytes these days, and how draining it can be. Instead of chatting your coworkers, walk over to their desks. Do meetings in person or at least video chat. Stop scrolling Facebook and cat videos and ask your colleagues to go for a walk to get coffee. Start a book club (with real books!) Give your eyes a break from screens and the digital world and reengage with the here-and-now.

Is there life out there? GO SEE!

Amanda Marcotte, High Seas
Written By

Amanda Marcotte

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