“Why ‘Hire Slow, Fire Fast’ Is A Bunch Of BS,” or so says Danny Boice in a recent Fast Company article that was sent my way.
Well, it is a catch phrase, and as such, has to be catchy and over-simplified.
“Hire as quickly and carefully as you can without screwing your business objectives, and also fire as quickly as you should,” is a pretty banal tweet, isn’t it? BTW, hiring carefully is not the same as waiting for perfection.
Now, Danny is a smart guy, and he writes a fun, opinionated article, but to riff for a second:
Here’s what is easy
- awesome teammates
- obvious duds
The first, because they are awesome.
The second, because you can spot the poor fit within a week or two and part ways right away, usually letting everyone save face (i.e. everyone just agrees to call it a consulting gig).
Here’s what is hard
- people who are ok but not great
They seemed awesome when outside of your walls, but inside, they are decent but not great. It is harder to fire these people fast. Is it them, or you? Perhaps they just need a bit more management attention? better feedback? time to get up the learning curve or settle in? And, since they are not a total wash, and given that everyone on the team is overstretched even with this person, it becomes hard to imagine going back to one less pair of hands.
So you give them a longer runway, and all of a sudden 4 months zoom by. And having that B-player on the team has a subtly corrosive effect on the morale and effectiveness of your A-players. But now you have to be even more careful with the legal side of firing, which slows things down further. And now firing them is harder on everyone because the B-player is probably very nice and the team has bonded, even if they know the person isn’t the best fit.
There’s another over-simplified cliche that holds some truth: “A players hire A players, B’s hire C’s, and C’s hire D’s”. It is another reason why B’s are troublesome in high-growth enterprises where you have to scale aggressively.
Over the years, I have gotten more careful about hiring, and faster at firing. I’m also really careful about picking co-founders. That doesn’t mean that I can’t move really fast when the fit seems obvious. Nor is that the same thing as waiting for perfection, because none of us are. Every candidate search is a balance between market supply and demand, your constraints, your goals, and your own urgency.