Speed as a Habit!
I’ve long believed that speed is the ultimate weapon in business. All else being equal, the fastest company in any market will win.
In tech, speed is seen primarily as an asset in product development. Hence the “move fast and break things” mentality, the commitment to minimum viable products and agile development. Many people would agree that speed and agility are how you win when it comes to product.
I believe that speed, like exercise and eating healthy, can be habitual.
So let’s break this down. What are the building blocks of speed? When you think about it, all business activity really comes down to two simple things: Making decisions and executing on decisions. Your success depends on your ability to develop speed as a habit in both.
A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.
General George Patton said that, and I definitely subscribe to it. Do you remember the last time you were in a meeting and someone said, “We’re going to make this decision before we leave the room”? How great did that feel? Didn’t you just want to hug that person?
The process of making and remaking decisions wastes an insane amount of time at companies. The key takeaway: WHEN a decision is made is much more important than WHAT decision is made.
This isn’t to say all decisions should be made quickly. Some decisions are more complicated or critical than others. It might behoove you to wait for more information. Some decisions can’t be easily reversed or would be too damaging if you choose poorly. Most importantly, some decisions don’t need to be made immediately to maintain downstream velocity.
Deciding on when a decision will be made from the start is a profound, powerful change that will speed everything up.
In my many years at Google, I saw Eric Schmidt use this approach to decision-making on a regular basis — probably without even thinking about it. Because founders Larry and Sergey were (and are) very strong-minded leaders involved in every major decision, Eric knew he couldn’t make huge unilateral choices. This could have stalled a lot of things, but Eric made sure that decisions were made on a specific timeframe — a realistic one — but a firm one. He made this a habit for himself and it made a world of difference for Google.
It's important to internalize how irreversible, fatal or non-fatal a decision may be. Very few can't be undone.
A lot of people spend a whole lot of time refining their productivity systems and to-do lists. But within the context of a team and a business, executing a plan as quickly as possible is an entirely different concept. Here’s how I’ve learned to execute with momentum.
Challenge the when.
I’m always shocked by how many plans and action items come out of meetings without being assigned due dates. Even when dates are assigned, they’re often based on half-baked intuition about how long the task should take. Completion dates and times follow a tribal notion of the sun setting and rising, and too often “tomorrow” is the default answer.
It’s not that everything needs to be done NOW, but for items on your critical path, it’s always useful to challenge the due date. All it takes is asking the simplest question: “Why can't this be done sooner?” Asking it methodically, reliably and habitually can have a profound impact on the speed of your organization.
You don’t have to be militant about it, just consistently respond that today is better that tomorrow, that right now is better than six hours from now.
Recognize and remove dependencies.
Courtesy: Dave Girouard, CEO, Upstart