December 29, 2021

Speed is About Trust

Aaron Levie, founder and CEO of Box, tweeted about speed as an advantage:

The crucial point here is this trifecta:

Small teams, hyper aligned, with few constraints.

I’ve always believed in this.

It seems easy in theory but hard in practice because organizations have a natural gravity about them that can lead to internal competition and misalignment.

But when you have all three, magic happens. I know because I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of such teams.

The hyper aligned” is the hardest part of the trifecta. You can have small teams with few constraints that cannot build with speed, quality, and with learning in mind. I know because I’ve also experienced this before (in different teams).

The difference is top of mind for me now every time I do something new. When you’re on that slow, sluggish, train of dysfunction, it is the opposite of all the feelings of magic. (For more on this, read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni).

What I’ve come to understand is that hyper-alignment only happens if there’s a shared vision, mutual trust, and a focus on team achievement.

And the opposite is also true: a team is not aligned if they don’t have a shared vision of what their product ought to do, if the team doesn’t trust each other, and if people’s focus is on individual achievement such as promotions, raises, and bonuses, rather than the team serving the customer. And this toxic environment is painful, it’s hard to rebound from (though not impossible, but would require everyone to check their ego at the door, which is what makes it difficult), and most of all it is a waste—a waste of resources, of talent, of time.

This is why nothing is more important than establishing and fostering trust in a team. (For more on this, read Radical Candor by Kim Scott). You can have top tier talent and still not produce anything close to its potential if you don’t have trust. But teams with trust can go much farther together and accomplish something much greater than the sum of their parts. Trust is the great multiplier.

The trifecta of small teams, hyper aligned, with few constraints” is how organizations achieve speed. But trust is what makes or breaks it.