September 14, 2023

They’re gaining on us, we’ll have to jettison something


The purpose of speed is repetition.

By increasing our number of feedback opportunities, we get better faster. Each piece of data either confirms our original hypothesis, or compels us to make slight course corrections.

But either way, we move the story forward.

Think of it like the sample size of a science experiment. The objective is reaching statistical significance. And going faster is the time constraint that gives us more observations and iterations, more samples, and thus, more results.

The problem is, sometimes our speed can get choked off. The ordinary inertia of life starts doing its thing, and we fail to make the kind of progress we’d like. It’s frustrating and exhausting. We think to ourselves, shit man, how are we supposed build downstream momentum when there’s perpetually this giant boulder in the middle of the river?

Well, one thing’s for sure. Powering through it ain’t gonna help.

Because boulders don’t need shoulders, they need shrugs. Atlas himself would agree. When we’re confronted with an immovable object, the best course of action is usually to surrender and go around it. Rather than giving ourselves a hernia trying to move it out of the way.

One question that’s helpful to ask your team in this moment is the following:

What’s weighing us down that we can jettison to move forward?

Because the issue here is weight. That’s what’s killing our speed, and therefore, our ability to generation the repetition necessary to grow. We’ll never make any progress unless we make this project a lighter lift.

This process reminds me of one of my favorite cartoon episodes. Simpsons fans all remember the scene where the town’s richest, oldest, and most powerful citizen has escaped in boat and is being pursued by the police.

Smithers warns the billionaire:

They’re gaining on us sir, we’ll have to jettison something.

Burns turns to him with his trademark death glare.

His assistant reluctantly salutes and says, it’s been a pleasure serving you, sir.

Then he backflips overboard into the icy waters so his boss can get away clean.

Now that’s how you increase your speed.

You don’t power through, you surrender.

If you’re confronted with an immovable object in your work stream, figure out what’s weighing you down.

And see if you can proceed without it.

Does the boulder in the middle of your river need a shoulder, or a shrug?