The Secret to Shipping Faster

Building towards a culture of speed

At this very moment, somewhere in the world, there’s a presentation to leadership wrapping up:

“Great update, team! Now, how can we get this done faster?”

After the requisite back and forth about cutting scope and adding engineers, the team files out. The team is frustrated, and the leaders are worried that the team isn’t acting with enough urgency.

Both agree that: Speed wins. Constantly, collaboratively pushing from a shared sense of purpose and passion is healthy.

How might we reframe this exchange?

Reframing in the moment

Take advantage of the moment by finding the common ground: Speed wins. The faster we ship, the faster we learn or tackle the market/opportunity.

For the leader/stakeholder

If you’re the leader/stakeholder in this scenario, consider what you might help with beyond highlighting the urgency:

  • Priorities that you can help clarify
  • Goals that need to be articulated more crisply
  • Blockers or decision friction that you can help remove
  • Ensuring it’s okay for the team to challenge and ask questions

For the team

If you’re the team in this scenario, perhaps you bristled at the question around speed — but assume best intent and resist the urge to respond defensively.

After all, if you could move faster, you likely would! So, give it a think: What do you need? Try to reframe and make some bold asks:

  • Shifting priorities that are causing churn
  • Clarification on goals and metrics of success
  • Processes or role confusion slowing you down
  • Unrealistic expectations that need to be realigned

Culture creates speed

A culture of speed often looks like:

  • Democratized decision making through clear frameworks that empower teams to make rapid decisions themselves. Most decisions are reversible. Ship it.
  • Hiring and retaining confident craftspeople who adapt and pivot as they hit inevitable, unforeseen speed bumps.
  • Shared understanding so the team has the full context behind the long term vision, agreement on the first version, and what a successful outcome looks like.
  • Trust and psychological safety amongst the team and throughout leadership to let the team take some risks, make the right calls, and to find the right corners to cut.
  • Accountability where the team owns their success and failure. Also critical at the leadership level — model accountability well, and reward it so it spreads and grows your culture.

Take advantage of each moment to dig deeper and grow the culture.

Scalable, sustainable speed comes from teams hyper-aligned with business outcomes, with culture at their sails: Constantly, collaboratively pushing from a shared sense of purpose and passion.

That’s the secret to shipping faster.

How might you, especially product leaders, help grow culture towards one of open dialogue, trust, and empowerment?

Some ideas that peers have offered up:

  • “We’re project teams.” Projects aren’t bad; but can you help your leaders see the value in true product management? Is there one spot, maybe under the radar, where you could experiment by agreeing on goals and incrementally delivering value?
  • Try a health monitor and check in with your team. Ask leadership for support to improve the red.
  • Involve your peers and stakeholders across the company in your retrospectives. Explore holistic opportunities, not just those locked to your team.
  • Talk about any cultural challenges, and if the environment doesn’t allow it, create it. Find a senior leader who can support you and open up more dialogue in those moments.
  • Make sure you truly understand the urgency coming from your leadership/business stakeholder. They’re asking to go faster for a reason. Are you sure you understand why? Get aligned, and there may be creative options that you haven’t considered yet.

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