Well Done Is Quickly Done
In the year 9 CE three Roman legions, a combat strength of over 20,000 men, were annihilated in a surprise attack in Roman-occupied Germania. A coalition of rebel Germanic tribes had planned for months to lead the Romans down a narrow forest path where they would be ambushed and picked off. The plan had worked out.
Rome’s loss was so complete they would never occupy Germania again.
This event was a rare setback for the old Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, a thoughtful and deliberate man. The Teutonic moves had thrown his ideas for extended Germanic conquest into disarray.
By the time Augustus died, he had been in office for 41 years, the longest of all Roman emperors. During his reign, he had outmanoeuvred rivals, charmed the Roman populace with buildings and art, and expanded Roman territory into an immense empire.
It’s come down to us that one of Augustus’s saying was ‘Well done is quickly done’. It’s a one-liner that served him well.
A good job is quick because it does not require fixing up. On the other hand, shoddy work has the appearance of speed but will need to be reworked. Any savings on the hack are an illusion and evaporate later when someone has to repair it. Often additional costs are incurred leaving us wishing we’d done it properly from the beginning. Well done is quickly done.
This insight is nothing new—it’s at least 2000 years old.
In software development, how often has it happened that the quick bug fix or rushed feature ultimately required more effort than if we had done it diligently and correctly from the start?
If this strategy worked for the most enduring, successful Roman emperor (and Germanic tribes) maybe we ought to think again when considering a quick-fix? Well done is quickly done.