No Release Fridays

July 1, 2022

Back when I was at a startup still trying to figure out our development process, we worked on a 5 day sprints every week with a release every Friday. This, without question turned the 5-day sprint into a 7-day sprint where we were working through the weekend to fix bugs and “mistakes” and “should look betters”.

If you work through the weekend, you’re not working “just 2 more days”. You’re working at least 12 days straight, with no breaks. This isn’t how we’re meant to work- nevertheless, I’m guilty of this myself, and wouldn’t stop until one day I start reflecting “is that all I got done in the last 3 days?“. Then I know I’ve worked myself useless.

Pehaps you’ve read Sprint by Jake Knapp. I did too, and my takeaway is this: use Monday-Friday Sprints to test ideas, and experiment with prototypes. Take risks, keep a timeline. Do not sprint to push a release to production on a Friday.

Release Fridays cost us endless hair loss over the course of a year, so I when I actually had the power to do anything about it, I brought it up.

Release Tuesdays

I proposed we release on Tuesdays. This would give us 5 day sprints, plus since release wasn’t close to the weekend, people have the flexibility to take an extra day off for a long weekend or wanted to put some extra effort once in a while, they could technically do it. If something broke in production and needed fixing, no problem- people were ready to hotfix stuff or roll back.

Here’s the thing that shocked me: Even though every developer I talked to acknowledged that releasing on Fridays was stressful, they were concerned we’d somehow have less time to ship than before. The concern was that previously we could start clean on Monday and finish clean on Friday, and somehow now we could not.

Now there were very few times that I’ve pulled my rank card to make a decision- but I was willing to bet this was a good overall change for everybody, even though we couldn’t all see it’s benefits unless we tried. So I said we’ll try this for a month and see how it worked.

Some good changes

First week, devs reported some annoyances with the change, but four weeks down I realized everybody was finally getting proper sleep.

I know because there were no more sunken eyes in the meeting room. There were no flurry of Skype pings over the weekend. No complaints filed in the Monday standups. No frantic calls (some which definitely went ignored) during the weekends. In fact, the team looked completely refreshed and excited to take on the week.

It’s a fantastic feeling to be able to look into your collegue’s smiling eyes and wish them a good morning on Mondays. To genuinely ask then about their weekend (because you weren’t around to ruin it for them), and be able to have them watch your back while you cover bases together through the week ahead.

Eventually we streamlined our process more, and what used to be weekly sprints eventually became two-week sprints. But we never again released on a Friday.

Some things are worth the trouble.