by Leon Rosenshein

Sooner, not Faster

What’s better, faster or sooner? More to the point, what’s the difference between them, and why should you care?

Let’s start with some definitions:


  1. Moving or able to move quickly

    She’s a very fast runner.
    a fast car

  2. Happening quickly : taking a short amount of time

    a fast race
    We’re off to a fast start.

  3. Operating quickly a fast computer


  1. Without undue time lapse : BEFORE LONG

    soon after sunrise

  2. In a prompt manner : SPEEDILY

    as soon as possible the sooner the better
    no sooner said than done

At its core, fast is about speed. It’s about movement. Speed is distance divided by time, so more speed is either more distance or less time.

Sooner, on the other hand, is temporal. It’s about time. It’s about the time between starting and finishing. The only way to be sooner is to take less time.

So faster is a function of distance and time, while sooner is just a function of time. Sooner is faster, but faster isn’t always sooner. That’s the key difference, and why you should care.

To know which is better though, first you need to define better. In this situation I define better as maximizing value added. That means value as defined by the customer/user, not as defined by the set of features provided. Which means getting feedback and acting on it.

Combined, that means sooner is better than faster. Sooner means whatever value is being delivered gets delivered before it otherwise would have. Getting feedback earlier and being able to act on it means you deliver what the customer wants/needs before you might have.

And that’s where being agile comes in. Working software. Customer collaboration, Responding to change. That helps you deliver sooner, not faster.