We are all in a rush these days. As founders, we want to literally do more faster all the time. As we rush, and get a lot done, sometimes we don’t do things right.
We forego quality in exchange for speed and quantity.
Yet it is really important to pay attention to correctness and quality. When we rush and make mistakes, we then have to go back and fix them, which ends up taking more time.
It pays off to spend a bit more time and get things right.
Over the years, I’ve adopted a few simple principles to make sure that the work I produce is quality work. I learned these principles as a software engineer and now I apply them to all things I do.
These principles are: simplicity, completeness, and iteration.
Always make things as simple as possible.
Ask yourself: what is the simplest, most straightforward way to get something done? How can I describe something or make something happen in the simplest possible way?
For example, is the email or blog post I wrote simple? Can I take away sentences or words to make it simpler?
Or when working with founders and thinking about their business, ask the founders if they are articulating their vision in the simplest way? Can they simplify?
Or is our process for matching founders with investors simple? What can we do to simplify and be more effective?
By actively asking this question, you focus on—and achieve—simplicity.
Secondly, ask if what you created is complete.
Sometimes, things that are too simple don’t fully solve the underlying problem.
As Einstein pointed out, things should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.
Look at your document, your presentation, your task, or your piece of code and ask: does it satisfy fully what I’ve set out to do?
Is it complete?
Iteration is the third key.
Look over your work and check again for simplicity and completeness. Like a great editor, you must revise and make it better. Like a great sculptor, you must refine and touch up.
Iterate until you can neither take anything away (simplify) or add anything (make it more complete).
When this happens, you are done—at least for now. Tomorrow, or even a year from now, things may change and you may need to iterate and improve again.
By applying these simple principles, by looking critically at your work, by polishing it a bit more, by asking if it makes sense, if it is simple and complete, by looking at your work from an outside perspective, you arrive at a much higher quality.
It takes a little bit more effort to learn and put this into practice. But once you master it, it will become second nature. The speed and quality will happen automatically.
Quality doesn’t have to take more time, it just needs the right approach.
And now, please share your principles and ways in which you achieve quality in your work.
Engineer, Immigrant. Vegan. 3x Founder, Managing Partner @2048vc. Previously ran @techstars in NYC. I write #startuphacks: http://alexiskold.net .