Slow is smooth and smooth is fast

Pavel Titenkov

Pavel Titenkov / January 10, 2023

3 min read––– views


"Slow is smooth and smooth is fast" - a phrase that I heard a couple of months ago and it resonated with me. In a time of constant stress and hurry, it might be useful to slow down.

The idea is simple: taking your time and being careful in your actions can lead to better results and help you achieve your goals faster. The phrase is often associated with high-stress situations, where the expectation is that speed is crucial. For example, this phrase is often associated with U.S. Navy Seals and the meaning in that context is pretty clear. I believe it can be easily applied to many spheres of life and, of course, to software development.

"Slow is smooth and smooth is fast" is paradoxical in the sense that it suggests that taking your time can lead to faster results. This phrase promotes being mindful and efficient in your actions, rather than just focusing on speed alone. During my years in software development, I have seen teams rushing to develop features without properly considering the long-term effect of it, which lead to several problems. The fast accumulation of technical debt is one of them.

When you put your team under pressure to deliver features quickly, they may be tempted to cut corners and make decisions that prioritise speed over quality. Doing it once in a while will not damage the product, but doing it constantly can make a huge impact. Prioritising speed over quality leads to poorly-designed technical decisions that are difficult to maintain or scale in the future. For the business, it means that the costs associated with maintaining and enhancing the product are growing fast so that you can get to the point where further product evolution is economically unprofitable. It harms the team morale as well. When developers have to spend a lot of time and effort to perform simple tasks, it can lead to frustration and burnout. Hiring and onboarding processes are becoming more complicated, because of the learning curve.

I believe there is also a correlation between speed and work satisfaction. When you stop rushing and slow down, you enjoy your work more. Things are becoming more attractive. You have time to dive deep and feed your curiosity. You worry less. You care for others more. You have time and energy to help. You make fewer mistakes because you're more focused.

I think, the phrase "slow is smooth and smooth is fast" is a reminder that taking your time and being careful and deliberate in your actions can ultimately lead to better results in the long run. Same as with many other things, it's all about balance. Slowing down doesn't mean you shouldn't do anything, it means you should experience more of the things you do. Set your own pace.

As for software development, it is important to remember that the speed of delivering features is not the only goal. Take your time to understand the root cause of the issue before pushing a fix for it. Take your time to analyse the customer problem from different angles before suggesting a possible solution. Take your time to enjoy the work you do. Slow down to stay calm and focused. Slow down to be happier and more effective.

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