Rev Up The Organization's Operating Velocity
Old time supervision tends to slow things down. By comparison, management now should focus on acceleration of the enterprise. Your efforst should be shifting away from traditional governance and toward gunning it. The idea is to put as much kick as you personally can into the way the organization operates.
These days success depends on speed. Quick is what files the edge on your outfit’s ability to compete. So you must become an accelerator, looking for every opportunity to increase the corporate cruising speed. Day in, day out, your efforts should be deliberately designed to help move the needle higher.
The world’s new tempo comes with its own vocabulary. People talk about “living on Internet time.” About “doing business at Web speed.” This implies not only a much faster beat in the business world at large, but also a far more persistent rhythm. The new cadence calls for a constant sense of urgency. Sustained speed. The pressure to perform at a more intense pace just doesn’t ebb and flow like it used to.
Most organizations have the capacity to be fast. But very few have figured out how to stay fast. You’ll see short bursts of acceleration, then they fade. Management hasn’t caught on that it has to make the company hard core rapid in a way that endures. And organizations haven’t gotten comfortable with the management tradeoffs involved in running at a revved up operating velocity.
Fact is, speed requires certain sacrifices. We have to manage more intuitively. There’s less time for deliberation. Less payoff from planning.
Instead of digging in and dissecting situations thoroughly before deciding what to do, we must rely more on analysis by action. Problem-solving has to happen in real time. This means managers need to become adept at “calling audibles”—that is, changing the play at the last moment to exploit new information and to fit constantly fluctuating circumstances.
The faster the game, the quicker our reflexes must be. As operating velocity increases, the time available to react diminishes. Problems and opportunities accelerate toward us. So we need to anticipate better. It’s important to think in terms of solution after next, because that gives us a little more lead time.
Also, the more business speeds up, the better our peripheral vision must become. Let’s call it an “unfocused awareness,” like seeing out of the corners of our eyes. We need this casual alertness to what’s happening around us in the rest of the organization so we move forward together in an effective, coordinated effort. Peripheral vision also makes us more conscious of problems coming at us out of left field.
Finally, like it or not, we have to manage in a more shallow manner. The currents of change are so powerful that we’ve got to learn to surf, not swim. Only by skimming can we hold the speed we need. Sure, in dealing with a few crucial issues, we’ll need to dive deeply and get to the heart of the matter. The key is to pick those situations very carefully. In general, crazy as it sounds, managing in a faster, more complex world should be superficial in most respects. Try to play it any other way, and you’ll plow into the waves of change and sink.
“The historical records will show that humans have never, ever opted for slower.” —Stephen Kern, historian