We’re so focused on speed in our organization, that we’ve become remarkably competent at creating problems faster. 

Somewhere on the way to this world we now live and work in, “speed” became a proxy for success. 

Speed is undoubtedly important, but beware relying on it as the sole indicator of effectiveness.

Speed is a cruel tyrant, demanding fealty from followers, while discouraging critical and deep thinking and focusing solely on time-to-response as a metric of success.

The pressure to move fast here is tremendous. Everyone’s running in circles as fast as they can.

Speed, unchecked increases sloppiness.

The leader who demands speed at the expense of thought and thoroughness is teaching his team members to act now and worry about cleaning up later. This works in triage and firefighting and other activities where instincts and actions are essential for survival, but it doesn’t play well for most teams and organizations in the business world.

Instead of taking the time to diagnose our situation, our strategy session focused on creating a huge laundry list of things to do. The leaders felt like it was a success because we had identified the work and assigned names and dates to it. No one knows what the strategy is though. 

Don’t misread my intent here.

Speed is critically important in many of our corporate endeavors.

The world we live in demands attention to the clock.

However, speed without thought breeds activity without vector and that is chaos.

During coaching sessions or workshops where people get a few moments to slow down and think, the number one excuse for not doing the things everyone knows are right is…you guessed it…no time.

10 Situations When You Need to Throttle Back or Call a Timeout:

1. Any situation that involves the development of a team member. Few of us take enough time to support development, provide feedback and determine and act on developmental plans. Call regular time-outs for everyone on your team to deal with this.

2. When someone looks at you and says, “This is important.” A peer was famous for offering, “That’s an important topic and we should talk about it at the right time.”  It was never the right time.

3. When you’re making lists of things to do. When you’ve just completed creating a laundry list of new “strategic” initiatives or projects, and no one has talked about what you’re NOT going to do, it’s time to call, “time-out.”

4. When the prescription shows up before the diagnosis. Whenever you are talking about strategic plans, new directions and new investments, and the team hasn’t taken the time to properly diagnose and understand the situation, it’s time to pause. Speed loves a rush to judgement…a ready, shoot, aim approach, but nothing is a substitute for a proper situation diagnosis prior to acting. If this is abstract, simply ask and work with your team to answer, “What’s going on here?”

5. When you’re the Executive Sponsor on a project and you don’t know how things are going. 

6. When the sky falls regularly. You’re overdue for a time out when you find yourself and your team members caught in an endless loop of responding to the latest competitive announcement by dropping everything to prop up the sky that’s about to fall.  This is indicative of a lack of strategy, a lack of spine or some great manipulation by others in the firm.  Regardless, fix it.

7. When a situation has been framed either as a positive or a negative, it’s time to call time and look at through a neutral filter.

8. As soon as someone says, “With a little more time and money, we can do this.” That’s code for the Sunk Cost effect decision trap..aka Escalation of Commitment. Sunk costs should stay sunk!

9. Any time you hear words like, “this can’t fail.”

10. Anytime you see a revenue projection that looks oddly like a hockey stick.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Blind pursuit of speed is part of the formula for disaster. Focus on creating healthy speed by minimizing the daily issue churn and resultant rework. Take the time to think through your diagnoses and prescriptions for the big issues. Flag potential decision-making traps and recognize that for some issues (people), speed is typically note part of the right answer.

Work hard, run fast and strive to win, but take the blindfold off first.

Art's Signature