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Outlier’s Path

Quality AND Velocity

Often, we are asked to make tradeoffs. For example, one frequently cited tradeoff concerns our need for quality and desire for speed. We are asked to balance our bar for excellence with how quickly excellence can be delivered, whether it is a product, service, or decision.

Much has been written about the “iron triangle,” which states that you can only have two out of three: speed, quality, or cost. If you want something delivered quickly and at a high level of quality, it will come at a higher cost. On the other hand, if you want something delivered quickly and cheaply, you may have to sacrifice quality. But, what is most fascinating is the hull speed of a company and its standards of excellence, for the most part, do not even improve linearly as the company grows its headcount and cost structure; in fact, both generally worsen and, at times, materially.

The lack of leverage for quality and velocity happens for many reasons. Quality degrades with larger team sizes due to increased communication complexity, diffusion of responsibility, groupthink, and coordination problems. Small teams don’t suffer these problems to the same extent, but more importantly, they allow for a much higher sense of mutual and individual accountability.

While the above three paragraphs are considered truisms in business, the irony is that we have had to relearn these truisms. Macroeconomic uncertainty has forced many of us to prioritize the most critical initiatives. After doing so, we discovered we could raise the quality bar and move faster. We remember that constraints breed creativity. It is with creativity that we reject tradeoffs and solve for AND rather than OR.

Embrace constraints and solve for AND.

P.S. Velocity is a vector comprising of two components: speed AND a given direction.