A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week – George S. Patton
I’m not sure I’m completely on board with General Patton. I do think that in certain situations, making a decision (keeping in mind that failure to make a decision is a decision) is critical to success of a strategy. And, I agree with Dave Girouard, the former Google Enterprise President and author of the Fast Company piece, How To Make Decisions More Efficiently, that speed of decisionmaking is a management competency, and that “speed is the ultimate weapon in business.”
Why does speed matter? All else being equal, the fastest organization in a market will win. Speed to decisionmaking. Speed to action. Speed to market. Speed in service. Speed is valued by customers and is rewarded in the market. Speed is a defining characteristic of success.
Unfortunately, speed is not a competency that is well developed in the health and human service field. Where is your organization on the “speed competency” scale? Is your team operating at the speed of the current market or on the speed of the previous non-competitive market? Is speed a “habit” at your organization? Answer these yes/no questions:
Do you challenge the “when”? – Due dates are an important part of an organization that keeps its staff productive and projects on track, but if you want to answer “yes” to this question, you need to recognize that due dates are often longer than they should be. The question to begin asking about due dates – “Can this be done sooner?” This sense of urgency is a basic first step to speeding up how decisions are made, and as a result, when things are done.
Do you recognize and remove dependencies? – To answer yes means you can prioritize which decisions are important and work on those first. Identifying the most important “action items” and imbuing them with urgency is of little use if your team works in a serial fashion where work and decisions are done in an “X, then Y, then Z” fashion. Leaders need to recognize the dependencies and non-dependencies, and take action where necessary, to speed up the process.
Do you eliminate cognitive overhead? – Many projects are very complicated, and those necessary complications take a lot of time and effort. Answering yes means finding those complications and “solving” them early so that the project gets easier and faster the longer your team works on it.
Do you use competition the right way? – It’s easy to say yes, you use “competition” as a motivation. But leaders need to make sure that their teams understand they need to set the pace in the market instead of always reacting and playing catch up.
Do you rally support for decisions? – To answer yes means that once decisions are made, you can gain the necessary team buy-in to prioritize them. But keep in mind, the reflex to resort to a traditional command position is a mistake. Leaders need to figure out how to give staff what they need to do their jobs, while getting you what you want at the same time.
In a changing market, speed does matter. That said, being “too soon” to market can also be a serious problem – particularly where time-to-profitability is concerned. But executive teams need to distinguish speed to decision from actual implementation. The key is to develop the habit of speed to decision among executive team members – which provides the “breathing room” for setting speed to implementation at the pace of the market.
For more on speed as a management competency, check out these resources from the OPEN MINDS Industry Library:
- What Do Today’s Leaders Think About Managing Change?
- Creating and Leading A Team in Times of Change
- Don’t Just Sit There: Change!
- Managing Change as a Leader’s Challenge
- Managing at the Speed of Change: What Does It Take to Be Nimble?
For more on meeting the leadership demands of today’s fast-paced world, join me us in Historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for The 2015 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat, where I will deliver the plenary address, What’s Your Leadership Strategy? The Challenges Of Leadership In A Time Of Innovation.