Going fast or slow? This question and discussion has come up more than any other in the life of our little venture. Our goals and structure are closely tied to this question. Do we want to do things one at a time and perfectly or do we rather do them quickly, launch a product for example, and perfect it later once it is on the market. I’ve come to the believe that perfectionism is a stopper. It stops you from learning because you are all whole up worrying about the little details.
Say you are building a car from scratch, if you never boot it up and try it before perfecting it you might end up with a beautiful car full of little details like a matt painting, leather seats, top notch sound system or even cup holders and little mirrors in the blinds. A car that is perfect but might not be allowed in traffic – you were so focussed on getting all the features in that you didn’t take it for a test drive (aka launch it) to find out that legally a car this old was not allowed to enter the city because of pollution limits. Bummer! you might think – this actually happens quite a lot. Launching a seemingly perfect product only to find out that it is not accepted by the market.
Know the expectations quickly
The person at the other end of the line was expecting something else from you. By waiting so long building it in your closet you completely missed the expectations of your audience and are left with none. Wouldn’t it be better to build the essentials of it or even create a draft or model and explain it before going the long run of construction?
We want to launch a new physical product, develop a new feature for our website and enter a new market. Three huge projects that involve the whole organisation: Even though each of the three milestones falls in the territory of a different department (or at least I would handle it that way with ‘product launch’ being a concern for Operations, the development of the feature laying in the technologists hands and the further internationalisation being taken care of by marketing or business development), every person’s input and effort will be needed to achieve a good outcome.
In my organisation, we are ambitious and it is nothing unusual to see three (or more) projects being worked on at the same time – with limited resources, because if not the whole game wouldn’t be as funny of course. Is that a good plan, though? I’ve always been a supporter of the ‘going fast’ approach. Aiming high, opening fronts and then once traction gained, taking the time to perfecting the moves and adding extras.
Take the time for perfection once you are sure of the foundation
As long as unpolished product do not hurt the brand I am a big supporter. I love starting out with small portions to see what is happening, bringing concentrated fresh traffic to a new site, trying a price or product change only on one segment or location, using pre-beta signups or launchrocks as means of measuring the interest…Sometimes though, this leads to frustration inside the team. We want to do our job as good as possible and most of the times this means checking the grammar just one more time, rewriting the email to collaborators an umpteenths time just to interchange ‘because’ with ‘as’ or adding just one more (extra) touch to a product. It is hard to let go! I once read the sentence ‘Done is better than perfect’ and I couldn’t agree more.Not only it is difficult to let go of something but it is also hard to focus on more than one thing at a time, to keep schedule of different projects and to have the priorities on the top of the mind. Quick changes and unplanned event makes it hard to stick to the schedule and to meet deadlines. Friction and tension may also be caused by inefficient workflows within the organizations. Sales might get frustrated with changing prices they have to defend in front of the customer or different contact person for closing one deal.
Going fast has to be done carefully so as to avoid hasty errors and so as not to loose anybody on the way. In spanish there is an old expression that says ‘vísteme despacio que tengo prisa’ ‘get me dressed slowly, I am in a hurry’ – it was a lady speaking to her servant but I think that it remains valid today. I guess in English there is a similar expression like ‘haste makes waste’ and yet another:
Going Faster is tempting disaster
The fast-or-slow dilemma does not only apply to business but to ourselves and our approach to life. Sometimes we are so busy doing that we forget to reflect. Some say we have to go slow in order to go fast. What in the beginning seems counter-intuitive, is actually very helpful advice! Instead of solving each problem as it arises, going slow to go fast means “developing the habit of standing back” (Susan Biali) to look at the patters, figure out the factors causing them and reacting by close observation and experimentation. Through the time of reflection we can not only solve the problem at hand but create a system, so that no problem (in this category at least) arises again. Through going slow we understand a thing deeply – we understand the different inputs and all possible outcomes – and we can find solutions that are stronger than the patches we would have applied in our fast problem solver modus.
Going slow to go fast
So I guess that my conclusion from all this is that fast or slow are not opposing but rather complementing. We should go fast to learn fast and go slow to observe carefully and fully understand our actions and the market’s reactions. Going fast can be tough and straining but is necessary in order not to waste the time and effort and going slow is unavoidable if you want going fast to fail.
The spanish expression made me think of my day. It usually starts with taking a shower and getting dressed. When I am already thinking about the day that will be ahead of me when in the shower, I forget to prepare for the dressing and it normally ends up with me putting on some jeans, then tossing them in the closet again, trying on a skirt, tossing it away, looking for a certain dress only to find it in the laundry bin and then after some time of frustration settling on the very first jeans I had tried on. By trying to get dressed quickly I have actually wasted tons of time – I didn’t think it through and was going hastily through my options. If when still in the shower I would have thought about what to wear I would have made a decision more easily and simply gotten dressed without trying on different things and making a mess (that would take me time to clean up later) by tossing around the options. So, go slow to go fast! Dress slowly when in a hurry!
It’s a marathon, not a sprint!