Defining faster

Speed is one of the most inappropriately used and understood words in all of “tech culture.” People say they want to move fast. They say they want to move fast and break things. I do not know if you ever talk to a CEO who is like yeah I want us to go extremely slowly with all things all of the time. In fact, as mentioned, you will basically always find the opposite. You find people — CEOs, leaders, etc. — who in every interaction you see them saying go faster go faster go faster. At all hands. In emails. In performance reviews. It is their job to set the pace. If they do not, who else will. And so, they continue telling you to go faster and faster and faster.

Sure. I agree. We want to go fast. I personally love going fast. I also love fast and the furious, yes the movie series, but that is perhaps not entirely the point here.

But in order to go fast, if you were to ask the same people who are telling you to go faster, “what does fast mean? what does speed mean?” you will realize that they do not have a thoughtful answer. If you were to actually do this, you would find most all people to not have thought of it to a degree of rigor they would be proud of, so they get defensive and then start giving you a mish mash of externally processed bullshit that basically points out first to you but then eventually, eventually they realize that they themselves do not have a definition of what fast looks like. And this is where they realize that all the downstream work is, well, slow, as a result of them not yet having a definition for what it means to go fast.

Defining fast makes a really big difference to your ability to go fast. You can run but if you run in the wrong direction, well that makes you really slow. This happens all the time at companies. They run and run and run. And they build something no one wants. Or they over prioritize the wrong features. Defining fast tells you what is important early on so you can spend the most energy on those things and the least amount of your resources (perhaps most importantly time!) on the things that do not actually matter. This is actually the fastest way to go faster — it’s not necessarily to work harder (more hours, which are important to be clear!). It is to actually just eliminate bullshit.

So when someone tells you to speed up, it may be worth asking them where you are going. Or where they want you to go. If you do not have clarity on said thing, prioritizing getting to clarity may be the best thing you could possibly do.

Think about how expensive it is to build the wrong thing. It impacts your time and money. Your customers time and money. The brands. Other teammates. Trust. This loop is expensive!

Now this is not a case for only planning in the abstract. You can still do things while planning. You can still test things and experiment and “ship stuff.” People tend to be like we have to ship in order to learn. And I’m like…well first of all it’s not binary, and beyond that if you are shipping something you should know, or at least I think you should know, what it is you are trying to test. Sign your name next to your hypothesis. Have conviction. Make a bet. Want to win. CARE about the intentionality, and I think you will be able to go a lot faster as a result.


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