Let me bring you down to speed Let me bring you down to speed

October 1, 2012   |   Business
Agile League

“Can you bring me up to speed?” We all hate to hear those words, as it implies a big disruption to whatever we’re currently doing. At The Agile League, that phrase is taboo. Instead, we humbly ask to bring each other down to speed. Here’s why:
Giving status updates and explaining things is very time consuming. There are people whose entire jobs consist of sitting in meetings and either bringing people up to speed or being brought up to speed themselves. At The Agile League, we don’t have enough people or time for that, and that’s just not how we operate. Instead, each of us assumes responsibility for being up to speed at all times.
If I fall behind on something, by missing a meeting or going on vacation, it’s up to me to catch up. Often this involves asking for help, but we recognize the jarring interruption to each others’ work. The person being asked already knows what needs to be done and is working to accomplish the goal. Stopping to explain things slows them down, pulls them out of their groove, and prevents them from making progress. From their perspective, it’s not me who is speeding up, instead they’re slowing down.
Seen from this angle, the immediate question to ask is: Is taking the time to catch me up worth slowing someone else on the team down? Often, it is worth it, but at least now the true cost is being recognized. When we use the phrase “bring up to speed” it sounds like there’s no cost and everybody wins, and that’s just not true.
The next time you get the urge to ask someone to bring you up to speed, try rephrasing it as you bringing them down to speed. You may find that your request suddenly seems much more imposing. You may also find that perhaps it would be a better use of everyone’s time for you to do some research on your own. Read the email chain a little closer, inspect the relevant git commits, or double check the Pivotal story description. Spend your own time speeding up instead of asking someone else to slow down.