This message has been around for years: Speed is essential to flourish in a world where past success only ensures that you used to be relevant. Your organization needs to be faster to market, quicker to respond to change, and more resilient when overcoming missteps.
So why do so many organizations struggle to master the need for speed? What keeps us slow when we desperately want to be faster?
The easy answer is that the definition of “speed” is a moving target requiring constant recalibration.
While true, the easy answer is also a cop out. Technology changes and new competitors have always had the potential to disrupt. Businesses have always looked for ways to do things faster – as well as better, cheaper and friendlier.
The Limiters We Place on Speed
Trucking companies install electronic speed limiters to increase fuel economy, safety and compliance with the law of their fleet.
Speed limiters also exist in organizations. They may be unintentional and, in some cases, unavoidable. If you want to go faster, identify, resolve or at least improve the following when they arise:
- The human factor: Many people working today grew up in a world where change was more predictable and stable. They are now being asked to thrive in an environment that operates at a speed with which they are not familiar. You won’t be able to completely overcome this limiter until the workforce transitions. In the meantime, provide education, encouragement and tools to succeed. In addition, make sure that you don’t make things worse by creating any of the speed limiters that follow.
- Lack of clarity: Clarity creates focus. Greater focus won’t alleviate all uncertainty, but it can diminish it. You will know that a lack of clarity is slowing you down when you see any of the following:
- People working hard, but pulling in opposite directions
- A tendency to chase the latest BSO (Bright Shiny Object)
- Over analysis and excessive planning that derails action
- Over complication of your vision, purpose, goals and work plans
You increase clarity by answering the following questions:
- What are we trying to accomplish? What are the priorities and time expectations?
- Why are these important?
- How will success be measured?
- Who has agreed to do what? Remember: If everyone is responsible for everything, then no one is responsible for anything.
- Mistrust by managers: Trust is the lubricant that makes organizations run faster. Its absence is evident in micromanaging and excessive layers of authority designed to ensure that work is completed. If you want to go faster, develop and sustain an organization where every person at every level can be trusted to do what they are supposed to do when they are supposed to do it the way it is supposed to be done. That means hiring great people, helping them continually improve their skills, creating clarity, optimizing processes and getting out of the way.
- Fear: People who are afraid protect their own immediate interests, often to the detriment of the team and organization. They believe that being right – or at least never being wrong – is the key to survival. Paying attention to details is healthy. Fear slows down the organization when endless analysis, procrastination and avoidance of decision making become the norm. Creating a culture that doesn’t punish honest mistakes, along with increasing clarity and trust, will help drive out fear.
- Inclusion that does not add value: People support what they help create, and involving a wide-range of stakeholders in plans and decisions is generally a good thing. Incorporating multiple perspectives often results in better decisions and may prevent the group from running off a cliff at full speed. The fact remains, however, that scheduling, coordinating and processing all those voices can slow things down. People are traveling, tied up in meetings or located in different cities and time zones. Effectively using technology helps. Ultimately, the leader must create a culture that balances the opportunity for people to provide input with the confidence in and support of decisions made in their absence.
Everyone wants their organization to be faster. Achieving that goal means identifying and removing the speed limiters that are holding you back.
Randy Pennington is a business performance expert, award-winning author and speaker, and leading authority on leadership, culture, and change. Through his engaging articles, books, and presentations, Randy teaches companies and associations how to make change work within their organization; achieve positive results; effectively lead through transformation efforts; and build a strong organizational culture to safeguard success.