Why development teams slow down

As startups scale, software development speed tends to slow. If you can’t ship product improvements quickly, you can’t quickly solve problems for your business, and you have a higher chance of failure1.

This sentiment is one of the most common conversations I have with founders: “We used to move so quickly, but now we’ve barely delivered anything all year.” Let’s look at some of the most common causes of reduced software delivery.

There are also some good reasons to slow down software development speed.


  1. Rapid product development drives outcomes in startups. ↩︎

  2. The negative impact of cognitive overload on productivity is well-established in research, but startup leaders rarely factor this into their strategy and operations. ↩︎

  3. Promising future features to new and existing users almost always leads to poor outcomes and a lack of control over your product strategy, because they build up over time and eliminate opportunities to adjust course. ↩︎

  4. The ideal state for product-market fit is to have an extremely narrow and focused product that satisfies a very broad market. ↩︎

  5. You need organisational discipline to focus on the right things and not be distracted by the wrong opportunities. You also must be capable of determining how common and complex the problems you are prioritising are. ↩︎

  6. DevOps is more than product management, and you should invest in it first when facing scaling issues. ↩︎

  7. Investing in product design can lead to fantastic outcomes for product development teams of all sizes because it reduces the number of iterations required to produce a great product or feature. ↩︎

  8. Autonomy and accountability are intrinsically tied together. To achieve great results, people need control over what they do (autonomy) and they need to be motivated by real business outcomes (accountability). Effective delegation requires a balance of these two forces. ↩︎

  9. When starting an initiative, it’s important to focus on the desired outcome before jumping to solutions. By focusing on the problem to be solved, we can ensure all ideas are considered and that we are all working towards a common goal. ↩︎

  10. Teams can stay ambitious with the help of experimentation. ↩︎

  11. To make effective decisions when developing products, engagement with customers is critical. Building this into your way of working should be the priority of any product leadership. ↩︎

  12. Many startups never outgrow their poor security habits. For every high-profile breach, many early-stage startups face existential risk due to poor security posture. ↩︎

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