Dana RossOn Moving Fast
January 3rd, 2021 8:50 AM
It started with a tweet from @sama on Twitter:
Move faster. Slowness anywhere justifies slowness everywhere.— Sam Altman (@sama) January 1, 2021
2021 instead of 2022. This week instead of next week. Today instead of tomorrow.
Moving fast compounds so much more than people realize.
So many people had a hot take response to this tweet, myself included. I’m not a fan of the move fast and break things philosophy that permeated our industry in the last decade. People were moving fast, and things were getting broken a lot. On the other hand, Chidi’s whole character on NBC’s The Good Place was built around his endless decision paralysis and over-analyzing. And I’ve seen first-hand the stagnation and compounding problems that stem from inaction.
These days, my philosophy is to move as fast as I can SAFELY. I’ve cultivated my own bias for action and I try not to spend too much time overthinking or over-analyzing. I know myself. I will obsess over every detail. It’s easy to feel safe in the short term when you don’t do anything.
Writing a doc? Stressing over every bit of spelling & grammar? In school, we’re graded for it. In a client services role it conveys professionalism and attention to detail and is as much a part of the deliverable as the content itself. But an email to your boss? They’re more interested in the meat of what you’re saying. Make that part clear and don’t sweat the rest.
Read about the role of shame in our lives. When you over-analyze, are you really hiding from potential shame if your decision doesn’t work out? And who would be making you feel that shame? I bet at the end of the day it’s you! Check out John Bradshaw’s Healing the Shame that Binds You. It was life changing for me.
Life won’t let us sit still. We need to do things! So one of the best things you can do is build guardrails & safety nets to protect you & those that depend on those decisions. This is a great use of the time between tasks or big projects.
In your personal life, this could involve:
- saving up some fuck you money
- lining up some part time work while you get your new business off the ground and working that investment into your plan
In software engineering, good guardrails include:
- a healthy CI/CD pipeline with code linting and automated testing before code is permitted to go live
- a team equipped with the skills and knowledge to deliver effective code reviews
With guardrails in place, it’s easier to go fast, to make decisions and act on them without needing every detail perfectly in place beforehand.
The original tweet says “today instead of tomorrow“. Ok, I’m writing this at 8:50am. There’s still 15 hours left in “today“. A bias to action doesn’t mean I need to act right this second. I have a whole day to research and make a decision or start doing something. And once I have the wheels in motion, that doesn’t mean I have to have everything done by the stroke of midnight. But I should be able to plan a course of action and start moving toward it after a little bit of planning.
I used to spend a lot of time on “coalition building“. I’d spend a lot of time and social capital planning, then convincing others it was safe to make a decision and act. Then I realized I wasn’t looking for consensus so much as I wanted to spread the blame around. But, you know what? Most decisions aren’t that consequential. You might have some uncomfortable moments if your decision isn’t right, but you will likely survive them, and you can decide quickly to change course anew.
We still take risk when we prefer the comfort of over-researching and over-analyzing before we make decisions, and when we try to get others to absorb the consequences of our choices. And it’s possible to move fast without risking it all, and definitely without needing to break things! The important thing is to accept the imperfect, embrace the risk, and build systems that help soften the impact of a poor choice.
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