Move fast and break things

Let's move fast, but stop breaking so many things. Bending is probably okay.

Move fast and break things

"Move fast and break things" is a pervasive Silicon Valley adage that was one of Facebook's original company values. It suggests rapid iteration, bold moves, and innovation without being held back by the fear of failure. Act like a small nimble startup, not a big stodgy company. Sounds great.

Today, it's an empty vessel; it can mean anything or nothing. Worse - it often serves as air cover for companies to excuse away poor business operations, bad customer support, uninspired employee experiences, and toxic internal relationships. That blows, because the core principles of fast iteration and easy experimentation are sound, even at larger enterprises.

To those of you in leadership positions at a company, next time you catch yourself justifying a negative outcome as an acceptable side effect of moving fast, consider whether it's an outlier and temporary, or a recurring theme. I've lost count of the number of times I've witnessed fundamental issues being brushed aside as very normal growing pains for a startup only for them to manifest in a deadly way 6-12 months later (e.g., massive attrition).

To everyone else in non-leadership roles, if you find yourself in a situation where something not good is happening and everyone seems to be turning a blind eye to it, talk to someone you trust at the company and let them know your concerns. Perhaps things are not as bad as you initially thought, which is great! It's easy to freak out at a startup where things are constantly changing, and sometimes you just need to hear another perspective.

But perhaps things really are broken, and it's important for you to figure that out early. Sometimes with enough noise from enough corners of a company, you can help the company course-correct. Sometimes it's too late, and the bad thing happens and either everyone makes it through the finger-pointing phase and learns from that experience, or they don't and continue to repeat the same mistakes. If you're at a startup that has a pattern of doing the latter, it's probably not a bad idea to start thinking about your next opportunity.

Let's move fast, but stop breaking so many things. Bending is probably okay.