Fast Paced Environments

Since at least the startup boom in the late 90s and early 2000s, a painful number of businesses have been trying to market themselves as “fast paced.” They use it as a selling point and they’re very proud to proclaim how “fast paced” they are.

Look at a job description, and you’ll see things like “Fast Paced Environment” and “Multiple projects.”

The thinking seems to be that “startups are chaotic, fast paced places where you work to exhaustion and everyone there seems wild about it, so we’ll be fast paced too.”

First off, startups don’t have to be like that either.

Second, people are finally starting to value living their lives again instead of pouring their health, mental and emotional well-being, and soul into a company that will discard the desiccated husk when they finally collapse.

Third, being “fast paced” actually hurts your company and your employees in the long run.

Stop that shit. For the love of everything decent, stop that shit.

“Going fast” seems like a great idea – after all, look at all the activity that’s going on out there. Our people are really killing it. They’re out there doing stuff.

But does it really matter? Seriously. Stop and think about it for a minute.

The truth is that, NO “going fast” and “doing stuff” don’t matter if you’re doing the wrong things. They also don’t matter even if you are doing the right things if you do them in such a way that you burn out the people who are actually doing the things.

I’ve seen a lot of businesses over my career that have been absolutely obsessed with the velocity of their teams, how many cards they complete in a sprint, and how many features that they ship – only to act shocked when none of it positively impacted their bottom line, every last person that worked for them quit, AND they couldn’t hire new people because their reputation was in the toilet.

The businesses that get ahead almost seem “boring” by comparison. Their people work at a reasonable pace, have time for their lives, and get enough sleep. Weekend work is nonexistent outside of extremely rare emergencies.

People come in, do their work without running around as though the building was on fire, get to bring their whole selves to work in a psychologically safe environment, probably enjoy working with most of their colleagues, and then they get to have a life outside of work.

Novel concept, right? It shouldn’t be. It should be the norm.

In an actually agile environment, it generally is.

“Fast Paced Environment” isn’t the selling point that many companies think it is. It’s often (correctly) interpreted as code for “over worked and understaffed.”

Hell, even the Navy Seals live by the motto “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.” And if you don’t consider them to be high preforming, I don’t know what to tell you.

Agile isn’t about “fast paced” it’s about sustainable pace and being responsive to feedback – often by delivering functionality in small vertical slices that allow customers or other stakeholders to experience additions in value on a short timescale.

The stakeholders and customers give feedback on the functionality that’s been delivered and the team can course correct based on what they find out.

No late night work. No weekend work. Just small, ongoing experiments that deliver value every couple of weeks. Work, present, get feedback, adjust, repeat.

Nothing about that has to be “fast paced.” In fact, the faster you go past a certain point, the more mistakes that tend to be made and the more rework has to be done.

Stop running your people and your business into the ground. Don’t glorify the “fast paced environment.” Instead, consign it to the garbage heap of history where it belongs.

, , , , ,

3 responses to “Fast Paced Environments

  1. Spot on. I’ve been trying to promote internally that we need to grow “responsibly” and go slow like turtles. Growing responsibly means avoiding burnout, focusing on doing good, prioritizing friends and family, and advancing the idea that becoming rich isn’t and cannot be our only goal.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: