Go faster via clarity

Whenever I feel sluggish, I read this list to remind me that it is possible to achieve magnificent feats in relatively short periods of time. I then read this list to remind me that all of this is possible with relatively limited amounts of resources. 

Greatness doesn’t happen by accident—it requires intentionality and a belief in the conditional probability (the knowledge that we can beat the odds!). 

A common belief is that speed and quality are mutually exclusive (or at minimum in tension). “In order for me to go fast, I have to rush things.” “In order for me to ship quality, I have to spend a lot more time on this.” These are not the right tradeoffs for us to be making. I am not saying we act sloppily and rush. I am not saying that we have all the time in the world to get work out to the world. 

It’s possible to move very quickly AND we ship very high-quality work. 

How? By instead focusing on another dimension: breadth versus depth.

The way to achieve faster and higher quality work is to narrow your scope and go deep. 

  • When scoping a project, go deep on the problem you’re trying to solve. Start by defining a scope—get alignment on it (especially important!)—and ship it. Reject twice the breadth so you can work twice as fast on creating a solution that’s twice as good.
    • This approach has tradeoffs (our product doesn’t work for every human on earth) but it does lead to faster and higher quality craft. 
    • AJ and Vicki have been poster-worthy for this recently, cutting out every tangential and optional activity to enable greater specificity in their work. 
    • It’s perhaps counterintuitive, but depth can still benefit from peer advice (to make sure you’re being sufficiently specific on your aims). One approach I’ve been using recently is aligning on success criteria before starting new projects. Tactically, this means every new document I write starts with a header: “this essay is successful if it achieves the following: X.” I then share this document with relevant stakeholders—welcoming intellectual debate—such that when I arrive to execution mode I can dive deep into the solution, having walled off every other avenue. (The success case for this email is that Compound teammates can ship higher quality work, faster by narrowing their scope.) 
  • When you are trying to recruit someone, dive deep into understanding them. Opt for specificity in their life rather than asking standard, surface-level questions. 
  • When you’re in a work conversation, reject surface-level answers. Keep diving until you get to the root. (And if you’re answering questions, speak with precision and clarity.) 
  • When you’re starting a company, choose one specific area to hold firm – in our case technology workers – so you can dive deep into solving that core problem – in our case illiquid assets. 

spend a lot of my time thinking about how to accelerate work. You may ask: Why do I care so much about speed? Why, in almost every meeting I am in, am I asking: “How can we ship this sooner? A week sooner? A day sooner?” 

  1. We’re building something that CHANGES PEOPLES’ LIVES. The capitalization is intentional—the sooner we bolster Compound, the more people we can impact. 
  2. Speed matters more than you think. I’m allergic to unintentional inefficiency (we can do things that don’t scale, but we should be aware of this choice). Speed sets the standard for our culture, and people are capable of more than they think possible
  3. Winning is fun. Speed helps us win and is our competitive advantage. The faster we build and ship today, the faster we will build and ship tomorrow. Also, Fast and the Furious is great. 
  4. The market is telling the world that companies should grow efficiently. The best organizations are efficient machines that avoid the death spiral. We achieve these aims by choosing to go deep and working with intentionality.