How and why to work more slowly? Method of Sergey Korolev

How and why to work more slowly? Method of Sergey Korolev

The future "father" of the Soviet cosmonautics Sergey Korolev is centered. His passion for aviation began in his youth, when he joined the glider circle. His share still fall heavy tests, but the youthful fuse he will remain for life.

“You can do it quickly, but badly, or you can do it slowly, but well. After a while, everyone will forget what was fast, but they will remember what was bad. And vice versa. "
Sergey Korolev, Designer

These words could not add anything else. But after reading this quotation, questions may remain, and we here, after all, are not a collection of “quotes from successful people,” so I still dare to continue. After all, who among us had not once faced a dilemma between bringing immediate results and ensuring high quality of work? Well, Sergey Korolev, one of the key figures in the history of human exploration of the cosmos, could tell you a lot.

Korolev's fate is incredible. Even in his youth, he became interested in aviation technology, and this is one of those cases where the standard reception of biographers “his fate was destined from a young age” seems justified. As in any epic about the fearless hero, he suffered incredible trials - he ended up in the GULAG camps, in gold mines where he almost lost his life, but thanks to the intercession of another legend of domestic aviation, Tupolev, lost "only" 13 teeth and generally health for the whole of its relatively short age; but his trials, like any real hero of any great epic, were not broken or even made meaner, and it is even possible that they helped him to make sure that life is too short to be afraid to dream. It was Korolev who became the person under whose leadership the technique was developed that brought the first man into space. Korolev can be safely called the "father" of practical cosmonautics. In just 4 years, he and his team made the leap from the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles to the creation of a manned spacecraft "Vostok-1"! As we can be sure later, this man knew a lot about time management and discipline.

The launch of the first ballistic missile R-1. 1948 Photo TASS.

Just 13 years later, Korolev, in his unchanging headdress, already meets a person who has been in space.

Why, when writing this column, did I choose Korolev as a guide? And because his method of work is very similar in spirit and partly in implementation with the principles of software engineering and the best practices of the software development process. A book about Toyota DNA (Toyota DNA) was written about the Japanese auto builder Toyota at one time, which opened the philosophy of this company to a Western reader; from this book, among other things, you can learn about the so-called "scientific method" of work: before you make a change, build a hypothesis, determine the metrics and the way they are obtained, measure everything and make changes to your changes, and if the metrics have improved, This change can be scaled. Surprisingly, the same method long before the publication of textbooks on the management principles for Toyota was introduced many thousands of kilometers from Japan, in the steppes of Kazakhstan and the design offices of Moscow, in a team led by Sergey Korolev. Could he then think that what he was doing is purely intuitive, in 20-30 years he would be written in Japanese textbooks: for example, the practice when the manager does not control from the “high castle” but collects all the data on a specific section and leaves for the place is called “gamba” (現場) in Japan - for Korolev it was an unwritten rule.

Pre-launch preparation of the Vostok rocket

He divided the entire development process into three parts: "design - manufacture - debugging", with the last step being the most serious. The team led by Korolev consisted of hundreds of working groups, each of which worked on its own small area of ​​work. Each operation in the design office was controlled by two people - partly, a prototype of the current “pair programming”. Interestingly, Korolev was skeptical was realistic about human nature, and advocated the creation of a system that would help in time to detect faults. One of his subordinates remembers the conversation with him: "" The tester has no right to make a mistake, "he did not get tired of repeating to me." But the man is not a car, "I did not agree with him." That's right, but in order not to miss the mistakes of an individual, an organizational system should be created to eliminate this error, a system that would allow it to be detected and eliminated in a timely manner. And this system should be created as testers, and it should guarantee us from mistakes. " "Does not resemble the CI/CD chain?

"Crutch" as the choice and philosophy of work

But let us briefly descend from heaven to earth, from the celestials who mastered the cosmos, before us, office plankton, standing on the shoulders of the Atlanteans. There are a few things that almost certainly unite all modern office workers. And I bet that no further than a few days ago you had to do at work with what you call “extinguishing fires” or “patching holes” (please, representatives of the profession of firefighters and tailors, please take the expressions in a metaphorical manner). Very often in this process, solutions are developed that are aimed at an urgent result: immediate repair, a small adjustment, the rapid introduction of an additional function. The cause of the "fire" can be like a breakdown, a found bug, for example, the eternal "client asked." In an overseas way, such solutions are called “monkey patch”, in Russian - “crutch”. I think many of you need to create crutches from time to time; in an abandoned case, this need becomes a chronic feature of the work.

Add to this the rhythm of adult life when you have work, evening studies, part-time work, cooking, refresher courses; family, go to the store, visit relatives; to look like 85, like Posner, play sports before it's too late; meet friends, read news, be always aware of, self-development, try business, go to dance courses; while the number of unwritten songs is already shouting a cuckoo, the old dvushka is shaking in square meters - and therefore, to look for a new one, order furniture, move. Of course, with all this madness, we must not forget about sleep and vacation. This list is almost endless. In past generations, this list was no less great, but that was the pre-Internet era. Now, we have just turned from working people into Pavlov's dogs, with whom dozens of push-notifications on at least two devices come all the day and before and after work. As Steve Glaveski notes in his article , " notifications from Facebook applications are very similar to the calls that a well-known physiologist at one time caused conditioned reflexes in dogs. "The same author quotes an excerpt from a study conducted by employees of the University of California, Irvine:" after the notification made us switch to another task, it may take us up to 23 minutes to return to the previous task. This is most likely due to the fact that momentary distractions lead us out of a state that psychologist Mihai Chikszentmihaii called the “flow state”. It is called a flow, because the matter in this state enthralls you so much that you are mentally completely immersed in it, no third-party thoughts prevent you from creating - in such a state the sea begins to seem “knee-deep”, and work brings joy - Cixikentmihaii calls this psychological experience "Optimal experience." If you do not resist the temptation to immediately react to the e-mail, then the person breaks out of the state of flow, and he will have to spend almost half an hour to return to it! Well, not treating yourself - know yourself?

Attempts to do many things in parallel and an increase in the number of roles that modern man applies to himself, leads to the fact that our head is overloaded with information. Daniel Kahneman in his famous book " Think slowly, decide quickly " (" Thinking ... Fast and slow ") quite simply explained that everything that takes place in "RAM Reduces the ability to think. This could be one of the reasons why we make such crappy decisions and, as a result, we work poorly and live poorly.

Another effect that follows from the above: the rhythm of our lives is too fast. More precisely, we perceive it as too fast, and therefore, we also want quick results. A colleague cites as an example of the state of the modern market of books and texts in general, where people are less and less concerned about to write an interesting, fresh, high-quality text. Incidentally, he also uses the term “stream”, but in the opposite context: in online media, including social networks, information has long been turned into an endless stream, the article’s life cycle has been shortened many times: today the text gets to the top, and tomorrow Well, after a maximum of 3 days, no one will remember him anymore. And the presence of this endless stream, on the one hand, dispels the attention of readers, and on the other, it deprives authors of motivation to write thoughtfully (I hold and still spend weeks writing such kinds of texts!).

It turns out a situation in which we do not reserve enough time for ourselves to work efficiently, on the one hand, because we have forgotten how to concentrate, and on the other hand, because we want an immediate result. Hence the psychology of “patching up holes” can take its roots.

I thought about the quality of everything we do not only in work, but also in life - I thought seriously when I accidentally deleted some data from the database during the day, and in the evening of that day I hurried and made fun of my wife two times not there drilled holes in the wall. I thought, and began to look around. It turned out that both I and others constantly do bad work, and mainly because they violate the golden principle: “measure seven times - cut once!”. Since I am a freshly baked driver, one of the first examples that comes to mind in this regard is how many drivers behave on the roads. You did not have such that as soon as you received a driver's license, then suddenly you began to hate people much more like a view? And suddenly they suddenly realized how dangerous so many drivers behave? And the thing is not that I’m barely there, or something like that. Just the feeling that the drivers of all these cars, which are pruned on a dark street, rush along a narrow street with a limit of 5 km/h or “breathe in the back of the head” on the highway, simply playing with the theory of probability - after all, sooner or later something will go not so, and "maybe" will not work. This very “maybe” - in other words, too lazy to think and play it safe - is the third reason why the quality of what we do at work and in life suffers.

Call him "Chief"

I do not let go the topic of driving - sorry, sad.When I was learning to drive, it was necessary for me to learn to drive so well from three weeks from scratch to pass the exam for 40 minutes from the first time. During these 3 weeks, I started almost every morning in the driver’s seat of a training car. On the third day, my instructor, seeing the stress in which driving drives me, said in his heart: " People used to be really more psychologically stable ." I do not know if this can be generalized, but I admit that this may be true. At least, when you read about people of older (up to post-war time) generations, sometimes you get the impression that they really were more complete people than you and me. Warriors are not us, in general. The same impression arose when studying the personality of Sergei Korolev.

While preparing this material, I “shoveled” excerpts from a multitude of memories of people who worked with Korolev, and it seemed to me surprising how unanimous in respectful and enthusiastic description of their meetings with the Chief, or “SP” (from “Sergey Pavlovich” - calling the name of Korolev in the documentation was, if I truly understood, forbidden) by their authors. And it was tough and demanding, and it was nervous, and boiled as instantly as it cooled, and cooling, patronizingly clapping on the shoulder with “consoling” words like: " Well, you got the same from me yesterday! "But the advantages of this low, stout man with a strong-willed face, a deaf and harsh voice, a tenacious gaze and vigor in his movements and gait clearly blocked his weaknesses in the eyes of his contemporaries. And studying his life can provide some useful lessons for us.

Is it possible for this person to be offended, in principle?

Sergey Korolev was truly an authentic leader — that is, one that saw a big goal was self-confident, responsible for his words and deeds, he realized what principles guided him and what he expected from his employees. In the different stories described by his subordinates, one can see Korolev as a person who is not afraid to solve difficult issues , gives to his subordinates enough creative freedom ( " I noticed that he began to trust his closest assistants more and gave them freedom of action. Obviously, he understood that the petty tutelage binds the employee’s initiative, prevents him from becoming a real expert and leader of his direction. ") he appreciates hard people (" He loved persistent people who could express and defend their opinions, their own here. "), is not afraid to admit his own mistakes (cosmonaut Alexei Leonov talks about how, being in orbit, he made a decision against the instructions of Korolev, and, having told about this to the Chief and explaining the reasons I heard in the presence of several people: " And Alyosha is right ... "), does not seek to demonstrate his own superiority (" Even when his interlocutor turned wrong, Sergei Pavlovich never stressed it, did not put in a reproach. He never considered it reprehensible to make mistakes. "), deliberately " inflames "discussions and confronts people with opposing opinions in order to bring forth truth in a dispute; does not forget to thank ( " There was an intercontinental rocket assembled on technological carts between us. After making sure that everything was finished, Sergey Pavlovich, despite his solidity, bent over, almost touching the floor with his hands, made his way under the rocket to us, shook our hands and thanked for the work. "), not afraid to criticize his own work (" But in the next half hour, many I had to hear a number of other criticisms "This flight we failed, we are poorly prepared for him" -. about the flight, which all considered successful, "No matter the design," -. about the design several times successfully flew into space.All this was spoken naturally and daily. ") and sharing intimate thoughts with loved ones (" Sergei Pavlovich was not a closed-minded person, he always shared his ideas, dreams, feelings. He loved think and dream aloud about space. ").

Relationship to time

The head of the glider circle once asked the young Korolev: “When will you finish your first glider?” And I heard in response: “ I do not want him to be the first. I want him to be the best! "

Glider circles in the 20s of the last century became the craze of Soviet youth after Leon Trotsky appealed to the people, "Give me wings!" - I mean, "Country of Soviets need their own planes!" Something like the current enthusiasm for technology artificial intelligence, if you please. Source .

It was also with a person with a special attitude towards time. The fact is that the tasks that Korolev set for his staff required a very rapid pace of development. In order to roughly imagine the speed of work performed by his motley team, assembled from dozens of teams from several institutions, we can recall that, for example, the apparatus for photographing the far side of the moon ("Luna-3") was designed, manufactured, tested and launched for 6 months - and it is not surprising, because, perhaps, it was only at this pace that the ambitious goals of the designer could be achieved. Korolev's subordinates, like himself, worked from morning till night, often without weekends and holidays. He hated the delay and hated postponing decision making or launching rockets.

Photo taken by the Luna-3

Nevertheless, under certain circumstances, Korolev was the first to demand a postponement of the deadline. There were two things that made this strong-willed, energetic, incredibly hard-working person be late with the deadlines - ensuring the safety of people and the quality of work. At one of the meetings, he said straightforwardly: " What kind of protection to use is you decide better than me and without me. But just please keep firmly in mind the timing, reliability and absolute safety of people ." It was he who, instead of control and sampling (as is customary in serial production), introduced large control tests for spacecraft. Tests Korolev paid the most attention and in the same spirit tried to educate their employees; one of them writes: " But something happened, something did not work ... The tester should immediately stop the work, thoroughly understand the causes of the incident and take steps to eliminate the problems that have occurred. In this case, the time savings recede into the background . "And another employee remembers how Korolev reacted to the detection of serious problems with the landing system, which knocked the entire team out of the schedule so much so that the predicted delay time was much less real:" And never the Chief Designer He didn’t flare up, didn’t reproach us, testers. Then, after the flight, when the astronauts landed safely, he said: "That's the only way to act. If there is even the slightest doubt, stop, figure it out and fix the cause." . "

At the same time, Korolev himself set an example to his employees. He devoted a lot of time to viewing flying films. Carefully thought through all the important decisions, after listening to the opinions of others, writing them down and ending the meeting with the words: " everything is clear to you, but I need to think ". And all this despite the fact that he was not one of those leaders who gave himself only successes: he was the first to report delays and failures to the “superiors”, taking fire on himself.

Sergey Korolev, Alexey Leonov, wife of Yuri Gagarin Valentina, Yuri Gagarin and Grigory Postnikov

What to get out of all this?

“Now it’s impossible to demand from people that they work faster and better. It remains only to stand in front of them and, bowing low, ask them about it. ”
Sergey Korolev

If you look at the statements and actions of Korolev, then his principles of work can be reduced to several fundamental provisions.

Sergey Korolev is broadcasting.

No Fuss
If you think about it, then very many mistaken decisions are made because they are made in a state of fuss. We see that something is going wrong - and in a hurry we are trying to fix it. Familiar? I bet everybody can tell a story about how everything made everything worse in a hurry.

"Plan enough time"
Despite his indefatigability and super-ambitious goals from the category of science fiction, Korolev was not one of those people who first promise to do something in two accounts, and then suddenly it turns out that this kind of task takes five times more time. Once, during a visit to Germany, the purpose of which was to examine the missiles of the FAA, his superiors asked him how long it would take to copy these missiles. Someone from the engineers replied: "20 electricians and a month of work." Korolev estimated the terms differently: " A separate research institute and a new industry ". And many of you answered in a similar way? I think your superiors often heard something like “3 o'clock” in order to wait for the results for 3 days.

“Do your job with quality, don't hope for“ maybe ””
One of the main sins of modern people: do everything quickly, to put a "tick" and get rid of the annoying task. Remember: if something can go wrong, then it will definitely go wrong (this principle is called Murphy's law and for some reason is described on Wikipedia as a “joking philosophical principle.” I don’t see anything joking in it. By the way, "Law" aircraft manufacturers). Never leave too many random variables. If you see a weak spot - provide check and insurance.

“Take the time to reason, but with enough information, make a decision quickly”
For many of us, the main measure of work quality is the speed of fulfillment . This paradigm needs to be revised to guide the high speed of execution of the conceived, but not the preparation of the solution. But if we are talking about solving critical issues (they are different in each industry), then the speed in general, ideally, should not be a guideline. Quality should decide - that is, the confidence that the solution was tested so well that it is more likely to work more or less smoothly, and at critical moments it is ideal.

Of course, one cannot say that speed as a metric is necessary or even possible to get rid of completely. There are, after all, different tasks, and, as usual, there is no universal pill for all pains. For example, at the prototyping stage, speed decides exactly. But at the production stage, it also plays a key role for the business. It’s impossible to go too deep into the details all the time, otherwise it will be worth the trampling on the spot, and while you make a decision, everything will change around a thousand times - it's like trying to see an elephant, looking into its trunk. Just to achieve high speed learning, reaction and decision making need the right methods. Korolev himself knew how to grasp information on the fly: he could understand the nuances just by looking at the general plans (he was allowed to do this by his widest expert base and vast experience, as well as clear processes in the company and an intuitive understanding of the decision-making process).

But this is not an article about solving all the problems at once, and not specific instructions, but about a general principle: let's build for ages! Build not faster, but better. Just think: the ISS are still flying on the "Unions", developed by the team of Korolev! The best things are not created at the click of a finger, they take time. If you spend a lot of time on working out a decision, then do not lose it, but do what you have to. Returning to the subject of literature: Leo Tolstoy wrote and rewrote "War and Peace" for 6 years. There is even evidence that he manually rewrote the text of the novel 8 times. Egyptian labor, but most importantly, not Sisyphean. And a great example of the correct attitude to their work.

Leo Tolstoy at the time of the beginning (left) and the end of writing "War and Peace"

I know that there are several things that can be said to all that has been said. For example, that CI/CD, agile, and lean exist just to catch errors on time. But if the head is a mess, then with all these tools there is room for hack. Someone may say that in real work you often simply have no choice - just do it and don’t ask questions. I agree, and I can remember such stories from my own experience. At one of the past works, we analyzed data from clients and prepared analytical reports for them. Often, in the ready-made reports, you had to change something, add, reshape to appease the momentary whims of the client. It got to the point that they told me that I needed to analyze a new piece of data and send a report in a couple of hours. Then I said directly to my boss: “I can do it well, but the time will have to be postponed, but I can quickly, but then I cannot vouch for the quality of the data. You decide. I was then told: do it quickly. I gave it under the hood and did it quickly - it was not all about launching rockets, which means that in case of errors, people would not be in danger, my manager would have to answer to the client independently, and my conscience would remain clear.

Therefore, I am not talking about that. I know perfectly well what it is like in real life. But looking at yourself and many people around you want to make a shift in the head towards the general focus on the sustainability of what you are doing and on the realization that if there is not enough time to solve a problem, then in fact you have a choice: or good or fast. We must be prepared for the fact that from our whole life someone will demand bad, but quick work. Do it quickly, put out a quick fire there. But in most cases there is only one person who always drives you, makes you fuss, make bad decisions and make a mess. It is you yourself.


When writing this article, I used information from memories whose authors were:

Kryukov S. S., Voltsifin A. N., Glazunov M. G., Novozhilov P. V., Maksimov G. Yu., Syromyatnikov V. G., Shabanov E. V., Shapovalov V. I., Shumakov B. G., Chernov V.V., Prudnikov I.S., Rublev B.V., Apartseva B.E.
All mentioned memories were collected in the book “S.P. Korolev. Scientist. Engineer. Person. A creative portrait based on the memoirs of contemporaries ”(“ Science ”, 1986), the materials of which were made publicly available by the project (for which I express my sincere thanks). I also highlighted some information from various interviews with cosmonaut A.A. Leonov and from the book of memoirs by cosmonaut Grechko G.M., the text of which is available at link .

Two of the photos used were painted using the service from Their neural network did a better job than, for example, this algorithm .

More photos of Korolev and his "eagles" and colleagues can be seen here .

Source text: How and why to work more slowly? Method of Sergey Korolev