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A Story About Using Vision to Increase Speed

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A Story About Using Vision to Increase Speed

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I’ve been hyper-focused on attaining crazy speed at Uptake lately within my organization. We’ve got a super-important initiative going on over the summer to build what we’re calling “Uptake 2.0″ (somewhat funny since we’re only 10 months old) and we need to get it done fast.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about ways to achieve more speed as an organization. The other day I was listening to Richard Feynman’s (the famous physicist) memoir on the way to work. There was a story that caught my attention regarding vision and speed, and that I thought was worth sharing.
It’s from his time working on inventing the atomic bomb during WWII:

I was asked to stop working on the stuff I was doing in my group and go down and take over the IBM group. And, although they had done only three problems in nine months, I had a very good group. The real trouble was that no one had ever told these fellows anything. The army had selected them from all over the country for a thing called Special Engineer Detachment—clever boys from high school who had engineering ability. They sent them up to Los Alamos. They put them in barracks. And they would tell them nothing.  They came to work, and what they had to do was work on IBM machines—punching holes, numbers that they didn’t understand. Nobody told them what it was. The thing was going very slowly.

I said that the first thing there has to be is that these technical guys know what we’re doing. So Oppenheimer went and talked to the security and got special permission so I could give a nice lecture about what we were doing, and they were all excited: “We’re fighting a war! We see what it is!”
They knew what the numbers meant. If the pressure came out higher, that meant there was more energy released, and so on and so on. They knew what they were doing. Complete transformation! They began to invent ways of doing it better. They improved the scheme. They worked at night. They didn’t need supervising in the night; they didn’t need anything. They understood everything; they invented several of the programs that we used.
So my boys really came through, and all that had to be done was to tell them what it was. As a result, although it took them nine months to do three problems before, we did nine problems in three months, which is nearly ten times as fast.
This really hit home for me. We’re developing some very complex enterprise software and sometimes it’s hard to keep people on the same page. Keeping a large team aligned can be challenging at times, but it really comes back to making sure that everyone understands and is bought into the vision. This impressed on me (again) the need to over-communicate as much as possible and keep everyone’s eye on the prize.
management ,leadership ,teamwork ,productivity ,project management

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