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Speed is our superpower: a proven agile framework for hyper-growth




About Science Card

Science Card’s Founder & CEO, Daniel Baeriswyl, PhD’s personal experience on how agile workflows unlock massive growth.

When we founded our first company in 2017, little did we know about how to run a company. We had just graduated from university with a PhD, and as a PhD student, you often work for 3–4 years almost on your own. We also came from an academic environment that differs greatly from the private economy.

We somehow managed to put ourselves together, raise sufficient funds for 18 months, rent an office, and off we went, thinking that we would totally rock it. It was the complete opposite.

The result after 6 months was a complete disaster. Nothing got done, the roadmap was more or less in place but not followed, randomness in tasks was normal, time just flew by, and opinions got louder. We quickly realised we needed help if we wanted this company to survive.

I called an experienced executive for help, and on the first phone call, the person asked me: “How are your daily scrums going?”. I replied: “What is scrum?”. Well, we quickly identified the problem — we had neither a meeting structure in place nor an idea of agile workflow.

I went on Amazon and bought ten scrum and agile software development books. The reads were eye-opening.

The stakes were very high at this point: without a change in workflow (not in talent, the talent was excellent), we would never be able to achieve our milestones and would not be able to raise further capital.

We decided to pick the best agile workflow book that we found, and implement its principals line-by-line. And so we did precisely that.

Initially, there was some resistance, but after a few weeks, the results were fascinating. We published release after release, the product started to work and bear fruit, we acquired customers and hit our milestones in time.

Long story short, we managed to raise a subsequent round, continued working with the agile framework and were acquired by in 2021.

This experience has shaped the workflow we’re using at Science Card. The workflow has a proven track record in boosting a company’s output and achieving speed with agility, and I’m sharing its framework, summarised in five points, here in the hope that you find it useful for your own company. I strongly recommend reading these points — the stakes are high, and it’s genuinely only those who make the extra effort that will succeed.

A simple, agile framework to unlock your superpower: speed — and how we work at Science Card.

At Science Card we use five simple principles that unlock productivity and speed. Each of them is explained briefly below.

1. Work in small batches.

Working in small batches is best illustrated with a classic example: a couple had to invite 500 people to their wedding with hand-written letters. So they thought, that’s easy. Let’s write the text, then we will hand-write all 500 cards, then put all the cards into 500 envelopes, put the address on each, and then take the whole lot to the post office. But what if you discover when putting the 395th letter into its envelope that all the cards have a typo? You either accept 500 typos, or you start again from scratch.

What that couple should have done instead: write one card, put it in an envelope, add the address and send it. Then, write three cards and send them out in one go. Repeat, but scale to five cards. While writing the eighth card, they realise there’s a typo. Correct the typo, and continue. Scale to 10 cards, then 50 cards, and then 100 cards at once. That way, they’ve limited the number of erroneous cards to eight instead of 395 or 500.

We apply this same principle at Science Card, outputting work in small batches, testing and scaling from there — and it very effectively removes errors from being discovered in big releases until it’s too late.

2. Create a usable small working example — or you waste company money.

This is pretty straightforward. Everything that you are working on has to be completed in a form that others can use. Even if the project is very short, ensure that your work is a minimum viable product (MVP) and can be picked up by someone else. If you are the only person to actually understand the work you did, you have wasted company money.

3. Look for fast feedback

Ask very quickly for feedback, and always look for feedback. Don’t hide and think that once you are done, everybody will praise you. Ask for feedback even if your prototype is still far from perfect — the early feedback at this stage will help drive a better end-product.

4. Avoid task switching

Switching tasks requires mental energy, and should be avoided at all costs! Every time you are switching tasks, you will need at least another 5–20 minutes to get into the new task. It requires energy and can be very tiring after a whole day of switching from one task to another.

It’s far more productive to focus fully on only one or two projects per day. If you do two projects, split them between morning and afternoon — however, we saw the best results if people focused on a single project on each day.

5. Educate your colleagues: present your learnings

At our jobs, we are learning every day. I bet that you are often very happy about the new knowledge that you’ve acquired, and believe that it is improving your skills and your ability to execute your work. That’s great — and one of the best things you can do with this newly acquired knowledge is to bring your co-workers to this level of knowledge as well.

Whatever you learn, teach it to your co-workers. It will make the group smarter as a whole and will massively improve the quality of work and output across the business.

And that’s it.

If you haven’t already done so, implementing these five principles into your startup can make a serious difference.

If you would like to discuss more, or share your experience and knowledge, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me on LinkedIn.

Thank you for reading, and I wish you all the success!