Introducing a 6th Atomic Value: “Think Long Term”

We’re expanding our company values to include “Think Long Term.”

Articulating our values is a team effort. Read Carl’s post “Company culture maintenance: Adding a 6th Atomic value” to learn how we got here.

Following through on our values is also a team effort. I wanted to know how Atoms defined “Think Long Term,” so I asked them. Below are some of their answers.

Working Smarter & Better

Long-term thinking starts with how we do our work.

It’s looking forward and looking back. When I’m making a decision, I try to think about its consequences a week, a month, a year out, and longer. Will the design of this feature make the next feature harder to build? When I encounter an unfortunate challenge, or am pleasantly surprised by something nice, I think about the past decisions that led to the situation, and try to learn from them.
– John Ruble

We value a sustainable development pace. Nobody wins if everyone works themselves into early retirement.
– Joe Chrysler

It means that when I am designing, I’m doing whatever I can to think holistically and build an extensible visual/interaction design system that can be tweaked and expanded as a customer’s product grows. It means that when I’m leading a project, I’m looking at decisions from the long-term perspective of how they will benefit our relationship with that customer, and how they will benefit the customer’s product.
– Brittany Hunter

What breadcrumbs do I need to leave now, such that in the long-term, the next person (or my future self) can easily understand how to do things and why things work the way they do? How do decisions today impact the long-term sustainability of a project?
– Matt Fletcher

Better Results for Clients

Naturally, this leads to better products for our clients:

Our clients reap the benefits by getting solutions that can scale and grow to meet future needs of customers and also be extensible enough to be molded to fit new needs down the road with minimal effort.
– Greg Williams

We don’t just focus on solving the problem the fastest and cheapest way possible. We think more strategically, rather than just tactically. I try to think about maintenance and what the total cost of ownership will be. For example, how will what we are building work and be used five to 10 years down the road? How can we minimize that cost for our clients? How can we maximize the benefit?
– Justin Kulesza

When we’re thinking long-term, our clients are protected from nasty surprises: They’re warned in advance if there will be issues with scope, budget, or timing. They hopefully won’t encounter issues with tech stack or third-party providers, because we’re working hard to make tooling choices that will stand the test of time. They’re given the info they need to plan their product’s roadmap and release it to their customers.
– Brittany Hunter

Ideally, we deliver features quickly, not because we’re borrowing against the future (accruing “technical debt”), but because we’re getting leverage and dividends out of the decisions and discipline we applied in the past. So clients get consistent, reliable productivity (rather than fits and starts as you trip on your own messes).
– John Ruble

We do better work because we are personally invested in our clients’ success. We value their repeated, long-term patronage over doing a more profitable, short-term job.
– Jonah Bailey

A Company that Lasts

We also think long term about Atomic itself, since we want the company to reach its 100th birthday in 2101 (even if none of us are personally here to see it):

We need to think about what the company needs to be successful, separate from our current set of employees and our current set of projects—what are the core concerns of the business, and how do we create the most sustainable culture we can? How do we find and train the next generation of company leaders? We think about what we want Atomic to look like down the road and what we can do to help get there.
– Jesse Hill

We constantly discuss how we can make Atomic a better place to work and how the company will/could grow over time as tech, markets, and people change.
– Bryan Elkus

We’re thinking long term by pushing forward to have Atomic purchase and invest in a new headquarters for Atomics’s Grand Rapids office. The economics of this kind of investment only make sense in the long term. Atomic is also bringing an obsolete property back to life within an urban neighborhood, which contributes to the long term viability of the City of Grand Rapids.
– Mary O’Neill

Designers and developers often organization-hop because they think that’s the best way to get ahead. Atomic is thinking about how to make an company in which makers can and want to stay for the entirety of their careers. The ESPP, annual reviews, and quarterly profit sharing are indicators of that attitude. Also, the new Accelerator program is going to allow senior makers to continue to grow in their ability to replicate themselves into new makers through true apprenticeship. And the creation of new roles for multiple senior makers opens up multiple avenues of advancement. It’s interesting to notice that all of our MPs were full-time makers at one point. Whatever path you want to take through your career, it’s conceivable you could do much of it without needing to leave Atomic.
– Jonah Bailey

Six Words

I also asked everyone to summarize “Think Long Term” in just six words. These are my favorite answers.

  • Discover core challenges, experiment, crush them. – Jesse Hill
  • Careful planning upfront yields rewards later. – John Fisher
  • Act with the end in mind. – Shawn Crowley
  • We think strategically; maximize future value. – Justin Kulesza
  • Doing the right thing pays off. – Micah Alles
  • Robust. Sustainable. Adaptable. Valuable. Relevant. Human. – Mary O’Neill