Luke Frake
Mar 9, 2015
4 mins reading time

How we do R&D time at Holiday Extras

Lots of companies do R&D time differently, Google famously have 20% time, the Atlassian team have their ShipIt days and at Holiday Extras we have ‘Project Lounge’. I’m going to open the doors to these sessions, to explain just how we do things and what I think works so well for us.

We encourage failure

I say this in the most positive way possible because, at Holiday Extras, we love learning from something whether that is from a great success, or an unavoidable failure. We think people learn best without a fear of failure and so it’s encouraged. If at the end of a Project Lounge all you can come back and say is ‘I didn’t get anywhere, but I now understand something inside and out’ or ‘I’ve learned that framework x doesn’t fit our needs’ that’s great. We absolutely prefer that to ‘I solved a problem with a technology I’ve used loads before and it went really well’. This time is there to both succeed and fail, so we try and push ourselves as much as possible.

Recurring

Everybody gets Project Lounge every two weeks, without fail. Keeping this recurring means that people can plan what they are going to work on in the following session. We find this helps everything get going quicker, reducing time wasted at the beginning of each session. This also helps us when planning projects, as everybody has 9 working days every two weeks, stopping unnecessary planning headaches.

A place to transform ideas

As a dev team who work very closely with a busy business, we often see areas that we think can be improved. These range from small changes & automating repetitive tasks to huge projects. For a lot of us, these kind of improvements are the most fun because we can see how it benefits the people we work with every day, and our customers. There is nothing more exciting for us than when something we learn from Project Lounge can also provide a real improvement!

Share back

At the end of every session there is the opportunity for people to show what they have learned, this can range from an informal chat to a full tour of a finished product showing what they have created. This gives people time to show what they have done, but we also use these sessions to teach each other what we have learned, so that we all benefit from each others new skills and/or knowledge.

Iterating

We’ve been doing Project Lounge, in some shape or form, for about 3 years. This has taken many iterations, and we make changes between almost every session. In fact, as I’m writing this I’m looking over feedback from our last session to see what we can do better!

Endless list of ideas

We have a Github repo that we call the wheelie-bin. When people come up with an idea they stick it as an issue in the wheelie bin. To give you a taste of what we have in there, it ranges from small projects like a new responsive datepicker or building a booking engine using web components to much larger projects like rebuilding and replacing our entire call centre system or a robot to bring breakfast to our desks.

Learning is at the heart of it all

I’ve discussed above about us doing work that benefits the business, but thats not what it is about. We enjoy helping the business when possible, but the main aim of Project Lounge is to learn. The problems we solve, we solve because we get to use for example, a new technology, framework or methodology.

So that’s the Holiday Extras principles of Project Lounge, and although we have iterated over the years, one thing has always sat at the core, learning. We believe that if you give great people the time to achieve great things, they will, and I see this every day from the people I work with!

I would love to hear your views, opinions and question on what you’ve read, and also any of your own experiences from your R&D time. So please make use of the comments below.

Tags R&D, culture