Speed and Productivity

July 26, 2020

What is perhaps less apparent is that having faster tools changes how users use a tool or perform a task. Users almost always have multiple strategies available to pursue a goal — including deciding to work on something else entirely — and they will choose to use faster tools more and more frequently. Fast tools don’t just allow users to accomplish tasks faster; they allow users to accomplish entirely new types of tasks, in entirely new ways.

The best founders work on things that seem small but they move really quickly. But they get things done really quickly. Every time you talk to the best founders they’ve gotten new things done. In fact, this is the one thing that we learned best predicts a success of founders in YC. If every time we talk to a team they’ve gotten new things done, that’s the best predictor we have that a company will be successful.

[M]oving quickly is an advantage that compounds. Being twice as fast doesn’t just double your output; it doubles the growth rate of your output. Over time, that makes an enormous difference.”

Be impatient by Ben Kuhn.

The prescription must be that if there’s something you want to do a lot of and get good at—like write, or fix bugs—you should try to do it faster.

That doesn’t mean be sloppy. But it does mean, push yourself to go faster than you think is healthy. That’s because the task will come to cost less in your mind; it’ll have a lower activation energy. So you’ll do it more. And as you do it more (as long as you’re doing it deliberately), you’ll get better. Eventually you’ll be both fast and good.”

Speed matters: Why working quickly is more important than it seems by James Somers.

People get visible pep in their step. They exude energy. Somebody would ask me if he could get back to me about something next week, and I would reply how about tomorrow morning? Might be completely unreasonable, did not matter. The point was to change people’s sense of urgency. We were always compressing cycle time on everything. Did we sometimes take it too far? Of course we did. You don’t know what’s possible until you try. Same thing applies in interactions with other stakeholders, especially customers who all have expectations about reasonable response times. It is easy to differentiate yourself by changing cycle times because few bother to do it.

Stepping up the pace doesn’t just cause people to do things faster. They start doing things differently. They become more demanding of others.

Over time an organization settles into a tempo and pace that is theirs and generally understood inside. You don’t have to work at it as much anymore as everybody operates at a cadence the organization generally expects.

You need an energetic cast that wants to let it rip. These were exactly the people we wanted to attract and retain. You don’t drive the pace, you start losing the people who need a fast-paced culture. And the best people do.

Quickening the pace also drives a narrower focus. You simply can’t move very fast when you are pushing on too many fronts at the same time.

People naturally resist focus because they can’t decide what is important. Therein lies a problem: people can typically tell you after some deliberation what their top three priorities are, but they struggle to decide on just one.

We procrastinate by declaring multiple priorities. Makes us sound thoughtful and comprehensive, but it completely lacks punch and impact. Pointed, critical thinking is rare.”

Amp It Up! by Frank Slootman

Set one’s operating cadence to run.’

Organizations have a lot of difficulty operating at a cadence which is unlikely their default one, and that cadence tends to get slower over time as the organization’s energy gets taxed to support the organization itself. People also seem to have a set operating cadence, though theirs is more context-dependent; I’ve noticed wild swings in mine over my various jobs, mostly in conforming to local norms.

Relentless execution is something of a cliche, but it is a cliche for a reason. Organizations that need to hire a Head of X to start Xing will necessarily pay a multi-month cost to start Xing; you can get a lot done in months. Many organizations will have a culture which says Why do X in the interim when we don’t know the best practices and will inevitably throw it away?”; they will lose out on months of progress.

The returns to pushing your cadence to faster are everywhere and they compound continuously, for years. Don’t send the email tomorrow. Don’t default to scheduling the meeting for next week. Don’t delay a worthy sprint until after the next quarterly planning exercise. Design control and decisionmaking structures to bias heavily in favor of preserving operating cadence.

I don’t think Stripe is uniformly fast. I think teams at Stripe are just faster than most companies, blocked a bit less by peer teams, constrained a tiny bit less by internal tools, etc etc. There are particular projects which have been agonizingly long to ship; literally years after I would have hoped them done. But across the portfolio, with now hundreds of teams working, we just get more done than we should” be able to.

A stupendous portion of that advantage is just consistently choosing to get more done. That sounds vacuous but hasn’t been in my experience. I have seen truly silly improvements occasioned by someone just consistently asking in meetings Could we do that faster? What is the minimum increment required to ship? Could that be done faster?” It’s the Charge More of management strategy; the upside is so dramatic, the cost so low, and the hit rate so high that you should just invoke it ritualistically.

Most organizations operate at nowhere near the frontier of their capabilities. That is a choice, and strikes me as a valid choice, but you can choose to move closer to the frontier, too.”

What Working At Stripe Has Been Like by Patrick McKenzie