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2019 08 13

Capture Small Improvements

My latest twitter thread:

One of the things I’m constantly harping on as a manager is Capturing small improvements. It’s tremendously important.

The magic of compound interest is real. If you’ve ever been to a 401k presentation, you heard how small growth can lead to outsized returns over time.

As a numerical example the difference between capturing a 1% improvement a day and remaining static is significant. Mathematically speaking, 1.01^365 is about 37.7.

The difference between a daily 1% improvement and a 1% regression is STUNNING: 0.99^365 is 0.0188. That’s a tremendouly impactful three orders of magnitude.

If you are talking about spending and saving, you can measure this directly via your bank account. In terms of improving people or knowledge or process efficiency in some way, you want to make sure you build feedback loops and improvement capture mechanisms in those loops in order to achieve atypically large, positive outcomes. (improving feeback loop cycle time by reducing friction is also critically important!)

When you are talking about certain processes, like hiring and recruiting, daily 1% isn’t practical or achievable. Yet if you could improve just 2% a week you find that you are hiring THREE times more efficiently. (1.02^52 = 2.8)

Another example is capturing small improvements in developer (or whoever) productivity via automation. Saving 10 mins a day for your developers adds up to a roughly a work week over the span of a year. if you have 50 or so developers, that 10 minutes is potentially ENTIRE YEAR of productivity. Then imagine that there is 4-6 lo hanging fruit type opportunities to automate or cancel a meeting or streamline some processs. Maybe there are a handful or so not-so-low-hanging or not-so-obvious opportunities as well.

This is how you drive towards and eventually achieve exponential increases in velocity. The broad lesson here is applicable for yourself as an indiviual, your team, or your company.

So yeah, Capture Small Improvements.


I do want to properly credit to Paul Buchheit, who’s mathematical allegory (1.01^365 vs 0.99^365) I’ve reused here. I don’t know if he came up with it, but I originally heard it third-hand from him.



you may also be interested in some of the greatest hits of amattn.com:

〜 Empathy as a Core Engineering Requirement

〜 Venture Capital Math 101

〜 You Should Foster a Culture of Readability

〜 The Customer's Semi-Lucid Trance State

〜 ARC Best Practices




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