Sense of Urgency

I once had the good fortune to visit the kitchen at The French Laundry. The kitchen was immaculate despite having just completed a full service. The walls were unadorned except for a small sign underneath a clock that read, simply, "Sense of Urgency.” I remember the sound of the clock ticking as we were ushered out. It was barely audible but with the context of its nearby signage it seemed deafening.

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Many product teams use urgency as an excuse to ship subpar products but that misses the point entirely. If you’ve ever eaten food from Thomas Keller you’ll agree there is no sacrificing quality there. Instead it says that getting things to people sooner is a big part of building high quality products. Shipping is a feature.

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Early at Facebook we had a push schedule of “whenever.” Far from the dream of continuous integration, it was chaotic and uncoordinated. We moved to a weekly cadence and many of us wanted to make pushes even more rare to allow for greater stability. Instead, Mark insisted we return to a daily push and also enable teams iterating quickly to still be able to push on demand. We had to learn how to improve quality without the crutch of slowing down. When I look back on the factors leading to the success of Facebook, this is perhaps the most important. Moving faster compounds over time.

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As builders, we must make ourself aware of the pain people are going through on a nearly constant basis. Every day people are frustrated by the tools they are forced to use because we haven't launched our next product yet. Billions of hours of human existence are wasted on bugs and lackluster features in existing products. Minute by minute, second by second, our collective opportunity to make the world better is passing us by.

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We must develop an acute awareness of the passage of time and with it our diminishing window of opportunity. If we fail to do so we cede to others the opportunities which today are uniquely ours. We must work with a sense of urgency.