I stumbled across this documentary about Sebastian Cox and his mission to prove that sustainably sourced British woods can be used to create wonderful furniture.
Something that particularly resonated with me was how the craftspeople in his workshop are responsible for realising a product from start to finish. There’s no division of labour. Forcing people to develop their craft in a wide range of areas from preparing the wood and assembly, to final finish.
Sebastian refers to this principle of having people owning the whole process, as being derived from William Morris’ view of how mass production diminished craft skills during the Industrial Revolution.
It made me think about how fragmented a lot of product teams have become when building software. It’s rare to have a single persons that owns a whole feature. Things get divided up into design/engineering, frontend/backend, mobile/web. The division of labour is very present.
There are many good reasons for these divisions of course. But it’s a reflection of how the software industry is very much in the mass production phase of development.
I’ve often considered how the lack of ownership over the whole is reflected in the end quality of a feature or product. It’s possible to build great products this way, but I can’t help feeling that something is lost.