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I had a fundamental misunderstanding of the concepts of product velocity. Being lazy, I just accepted that product velocity is about speed. In fact, when I google product velocity, I find numerous definitions and opinions that all say some version of, “how quickly new products or features can be released.”
OK. Go faster. Work harder. I never thought to question this.
Until this past week.
Osama Bedier, president of GoDaddy Commerce, gave a talk at the Dragonboat Accelerate 2023 virtual conference that woke me up to the difference between velocity and speed, exposing my fundamental misunderstanding of speed.
Bedier relates that we’ve all worked on products (or in organizations) that felt like we were working fast, but seemed to be going nowhere. Just spinning our wheels. We might have thought we were working hard and going fast but often thought, “Where are we going with this?” A tough question to handle, especially for high performing product teams.
High performers want to achieve great things. Make a difference. Have an impact. And we cannot do those things if our efforts are not making progress towards a specific, important direction.
Bedier reminded me that there is a big difference between speed and velocity.
What is product velocity?
He defined each. Simply.
Speed = Going Fast.
Velocity = Speed + Direction.
The purpose of speed is to go fast.
The purpose of velocity is to go fast in a specific direction.
That specific direction could be towards a:
Any other important “why”
Take a look at that list. When product teams understand the direction, speed is easy.
Velocity as leadership principle
Direction minimizes distractions.
Direction focuses energy on something specific.
Without direction, we could speed up beyond our wildest imagination and still not accomplish any important goal, mission, deadline, requirement, regulatory change, or any other important “why.”
In this context, speed is irrelevant. Or downright counter productive.
Imagine assembling a team of high performers, telling them to go faster, and NOT telling them where to go.
Leadership principle: Pursue velocity, not speed.
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