Strategic Speed and Leadership

leadershipEver heard the old saying, “Why is there never enough time to do it right, but always enough time to do it over?” Organizational cultures that have a need for speed can actually slow down strategically in their quest to get things done quickly. This was discussed in an article in the Harvard Business Review called, “Need Speed? Slow Down.” What I find interesting is that entrepreneurial companies, who are usually rewarded for speed, may be missing the boat, strategically.

The article describes 8 characteristics of companies who are strategically fast:

  1. Senior leaders closely aligned and committed to initiatives’ success
  2. Team members sometimes switch responsibilities to make things easier for one another
  3. Teams review how their work is going
  4. Groups capture and communicate lessons learned
  5. Success is based on the ability to explore new technologies
  6. Employees create innovative products and services
  7. Management systems work coherently to support overall objectives
  8. Even experienced employees receive training when initiatives are launched

Conversely, of course, those companies that do the opposite of this are strategically slow. When I look at this list, there are two characteristics that seem to be at the core of what works – communication and adjustment conversations. Let’s take communication first. As entrepreneurs we have a tendency to believe that everyone “thinks” like we do. News flash, they don’t. Because we think this way, we are “quick” in our communication and anxious to move on to the next thing. Without a basic understanding of mutual goals or alignment, things will get done, however they may not be the right things to be working on. Goals will be accomplished, but were they really the right goals or the ones that are the most important for strategic growth?

Adjustment conversations are the second common theme in these strategically fast companies. Conversant calls this “Align, Act, Adjust” or “Debrief” conversations. Two myths about debriefs are likely responsible for these conversations not happening. The first is that they take too much time, and the second is that we only need them when something doesn’t work. Wrong on both counts. These conversations are essential to good communication and creating the “Cycle of Value” that moves an organization forward strategically fast. It is imperative that after every “result” from an alignment and action, you review and take stock. What went well? What didn’t go so well? What did we learn and how will we use that in the future? By integrating this process into your culture, you will have fewer missed deadlines, wrong products and misaligned teams. It’s a process and it won’t necessarily be fast. It will take time for your teams to become good at it and making it a habit, but spending the time to reflect and learn from your actions will lead to speed, just not while you’re learning the process.

Need strategic speed in this competitive landscape? Slow down and reflect and you might learn a few valuable lessons.

photo credit: Artiii via photopin cc