Atlassian’s 20% Time Experiment

I’ve had a couple of opportunities to meet Mike Cannon-Brookes from Atlassian in the last 12 months, first at Morgo and more recently at Kiwi Foo Camp.

He is a nice mix of very smart but still approachable. I like that.

Atlassian are an impressive company, and a good role model for a couple of the businesses I’m working with.

He recently blogged about an experiment they are running at the moment where they are allowing staff to spend 20% of their time on their own pet projects. This in itself is obviously not an original idea. What makes this interesting is that, unlike Google, they are going to be open about how it works for them in reality:

Atlassian’s 20% Time Experiment

Lots of companies talk about doing this sort of thing, but hardly any I’m aware of have actually gone as far as trying it out. Doing so in the open is pretty brave. Here is what they say about the potential impact on customers:

“What does it mean for customers?

In the short term, this will mean slower or smaller, but more innovative releases. How much slower, smaller and more innovative? We’re not sure – we’ll find out and be honest in communicating it here.

(From my back of the envelope calculations, for 7 products we’ve made over 50 releases in the last 12 months.)

The long term thinking is that some of the 20% results will filter into the products and outweigh the short term release slow down in terms of customer benefits.”

You have to give them credit for that at least.

I wish them luck, and will watch with interest to see how it goes.

One thought on “Atlassian’s 20% Time Experiment”

  1. I think the key question to ask of such programs is whether the 20% is in lieu of “ordinary” work or in addition (above the usual 100%). From what you describe, Atlassian do it in lieu (are willing to slow down releases), which is commendable.

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