I actually wrote this some time ago, got distracted, and forgot about it until I saw this tweet:
Okay, I admit that the title is slightly linkbait-ish in that I don’t exactly take the “Move fast, break stuff” approach. So let me propose a clarification: “Move well and don’t be afraid to break stuff”. Why? Because if you are building any sort of process, be it a software development project, a corporate business plan, or just a sales presentation, there are three critical pieces of information you must deal with. The things you know that you know, the things you know that you don’t know, and the things you don’t know that you don’t know. Failing to properly react to any of these introduces enough risk to sink your effort.
Things you know that you knowThis is the easy stuff and any process plan should start here. You’re on solid ground and planning
becomes easy. But the common misstep here is to fail to act on what you know that you know. Your
domain knowledge is almost certainly incomplete, but you have something you can act on. This means you can begin working and solving problems quickly. You can gain measurable success sooner rather than later. And anymore, time wasted is success wasted.
Things you know that you don’t knowThese things are also pretty straightforward, but are also a common trap. You know you have more
information to gather and additional analysis to do. But far too often the tendency is to stop here until you know all the things you know you don’t know. (If you need to, read that line again. I’ll wait.) Just like act action begets action, inaction begets inaction. The more you wait, the harder it is to begin. This is what “Move fast” means, but really you need to “Move well”. You know the things you don’t know, so while you’re acting, you take these things into account. You try as hard as you can to intelligently anticipate as much as possible. The idea is to have to redo as little as possible while being at ease with the fact that you will have to redo something. It's the acknowledgement that something is better than nothing. Except when it isn't. It’s a balance, and there are no right approaches here. The best piece of advice that I have is to be willing to draw a line and say “Factum dictum!” And that's really the point of "Move Fast, Break Stuff". If you wait until you have all the answers, you've waited too long.
Things you don’t know that you don’t knowThis is the tough one. There’s always something you don’t expect. Something you don’t see coming. You need to accept that as you proceed and accept the fact that something may very well happen that turns everything upside down. There’s both forseeable and unforseeable change. Understand that if your plan failed to protect you from unforeseeable change, that does not mean your plan failed. But also the whole point of “Move fast and break stuff”. If you continue to move, continue to produce, and refine your plan as you have more information, you will be in a better position to react to the things you don’t know that you don’t know. If you don’t, your best case scenario is that you’re only able to react to the unforeseen when you’re far enough into your process that it requires a major amount of effort to react. Worst case, you never move out of the planning and analysis stage because you delay action to account for the unforeseen.
“Move fast and break stuff” does not mean “Be reckless”. You’re process should not resemble a bull in a china shop. Move well and move with the understanding that projects, like life, can get messy. If you do what you can when you can, you put yourself in a far better position to succeed. And, as Melissa Perry pointed out, the learning has to come with the breaking.