By Kuty Shalev, founder of Clevertech.
You hear them all the time these days: "Fail fast." "Fail forward." "Less thinking, more doing." Aphorisms like these exist because another remains true: "Time is not on your side." Speediness is an undeniable must-have in the world of business today. Unfortunately, speed often entails sacrifice. Sometimes working fast leads to poor decision-making and taking on more costs and risks.
However, in my own experience running a software consulting and development firm, I've found that the hazards associated with working quickly can be mitigated if leaders can ignore the voice in their heads telling them everything has to be perfect. Perfection doesn't exist. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you'll be able get better work out the door faster. To help expedite that process, here are a few steps to take:
1. Create space for reflection to identify real issues. Scheduling meetings simply focused on reflection can be difficult to do with the next feature or request looming. But stop thinking about what's coming next for a moment, and start thinking about what is happening now.
Have your team answer questions like, "How's it really going?" "How are people feeling?" "What's going well?" "What's going poorly?" "Who is doing well?" Within my company, we hold group conversations about how to deal with universal concerns. These are not complaining sessions. We make sure everyone on the team can answer questions like, "If I notice an issue, who do I tell?" "How do I address it?" "How do I bring it up?"
Such focused, reflective meetings establish protocol and procedures, but they also create a safe place to share concerns and strategies for handling the challenges popping up across various projects. When you pause and reflect, you begin to see things more clearly -- as they really are -- which leads to making better choices in the future.
Moreover, you'll ensure everyone is on the same page, working toward the same objective, leading to improved efficiency and effort.
2. Seek solutions that elicit action. It's all too easy for concerns to turn into complaints or judgments, which can impede the flow of a project -- especially if they're coming from the client side.
Recently, one of our employees faced a situation where a client wanted a certain feature to be built within a particular time frame. The client would describe the feature, and we'd ask clarifying questions. We spent most of the time allotted for development waiting on responses, thinking we shouldn't begin until we had answers. By the time we got them, the client was unhappy that development had started so late. So, in our reflection meeting, we asked, "What can we do to avoid that issue?"
We took action by agreeing to still ask questions, but rather than wait for responses, we'd anticipate the answers and start building. Even if we got only 60 percent of them right, at least a portion of the project would be built and close to ready. Now, we don't waste time and hit our deliverable deadlines as a result.
3. Ground your assessments. We always try to avoid making assessments that aren't grounded in evidence. Opinions, beliefs and gut feelings -- as useful as they may be at times -- shouldn't drive development. Even when anticipating client responses, we use all the proof we can gather from previous interactions to help us decide how to move forward.
While you should avoid making ungrounded assessments, lacking answers is never an excuse for complacency. Instead, create a vision of the future based on prior evidence. It's the best way to draw conclusions about what needs to be done in the present. When you practice making grounded assessments, people come to trust what you say. Plus, it tends to counteract those "Well, this is how it appears to me..." types of complaints.
Pursuing perfection is futile, but by creating time for productive reflection, defaulting to proactive solutions, and making grounded assessments based on available evidence, you can produce high-quality work quickly and stay competitive in an increasingly fast-paced world.
Kuty Shalev is the founder of Clevertech, a New York City-based firm that designs, develops and deploys strategic software for startups.