Slowing Down to Go Faster

Speed is imperative in the business world. Getting to market before competitors, leading the way in innovation, the development cycle can be relentless. For embedded systems engineers, deadlines are always yesterday. There is always a push to get things done faster. How quickly can we get this done? So and so needs this as fast as possible. Push, push, push. Work days and work weeks become longer and eventually engineers begin to burn out.

Doing more and working longer hours is not always the solution. In fact, doing so can in fact cause more harm, project delays and make things worse. When developers are in a hurry, discipline falls away. Short cuts are taken, architecture and design documents are skipped, design by coding ensues and good luck if anyone thinks a full battery of tests will be performed to test a product. The end result, more bugs, more mistakes, more debugging, longer times to market and increased costs.

In order to maximize development effort, engineers and development teams need to monitor what I call their Product Development Intensity (PDI). The PDI is analogous to a workout intensity that is tracked by many fitness trackers today. In order to stay healthy, an individual might track their heart rate during exercise. Training above 80% maximum heartrate for extended periods of time is not recommended let alone at 90% (training for short periods in these zones can be healthy but generally not for more than a few minutes per workout). Training at these levels for extended periods of time can have adverse health effects.

slow down sign

For development teams, working at a high PDI for extended periods of time can have a similar detrimental effect. As developers work at high intensity levels, they can become mentally fatigued, stressed out and in general exhausted. Working under such conditions can slow down development by resulting in increased bug rates, poor software quality, rework and many other symptoms. In order to develop a product as quickly and efficiently as possible, teams need to manage their PDI and ensure that high level intensity development doesn’t last more than a week and is followed by lower intensity work.

Getting a product to market fast is critical to many companies and sometimes in order to do just that we need to ignore the fires burning today, stay disciplined and slowdown in order to actually deliver faster. Sometimes the only way to go faster is to slow down.

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