"The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow." ~Rupert Murdoch
"If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough." ~Mario Andretti
Operational speed has always been spoken about in management and leadership circles, but as technology improves, change gets more rapid, and immediate gratification permeates the market more, it becomes even more important. We are a culture that is constantly demanding immediate gratification. Many organizations as varied as Amazon in consumer products and Jimmy John’s in restaurants use this fact to make speed of service a competitive advantage. What this means for many of us is that there is a constant pressure from outside the organization as well as inside to be quicker and quicker with our product and service, while at the same time ensuring there is no impact in quality.
But what about the ways in which speed actually helps us as leaders and organizational stakeholders? A focus on speed within your organization (while being mindful of the need to maintain quality) can actually make many things easier, of better quality, and of course faster. What’s one of the nicest little “cherries on top” is that your team intuitively understands that making processes quicker makes them better because they appreciate the same in their own lives. So what are a few of the benefits I’m talking about?
Learning from mistakes – No matter how prepared you are, you are going to make mistakes. The quicker you make them and learn from them the quicker you move along the learning curve and get better overall results.
Adjust to customer demands – Where the above can really come into play is with adjusting to customer demands. If you are able to quickly address what your customers bring to your attention you gain an advantage over your competitors. You can come up with a better product or service at the same time you meet the markets needs better. The example that pops to my mind is how Samsung introduced a larger screen smartphone well before Apple did and made big strides in market share because of it. If Apple had come out with a larger screen iPhone at the same time those market share increases would most likely have partially disappeared (they still would have gained against other competitors at the time).
More intellectually engaging – When things are moving fast, by necessity you maintain more focus which is one of the keys to overall productivity. The interesting phenomenon that occurs is that the urgency of speed in the operation can beget innovation as the team feels pressure to produce in new ways to gain more speed. That urgency also breaks down silos and “hesitations” that team members might have in bringing up new ideas.
Less costly – Anyone who has taken a Six Sigma, Kaizen or Continuous Improvement course knows that if you can get greater speed for the same cost then your cost p/unit goes down. This works the same for services as well as products. A quicker transaction allows you to make more transaction. But beyond that, it allows you to get a product to market quicker (thus recouping the initial investment faster)
Quick gratification – I don’t know about you, but I like to cross the finish line and accomplish things. Getting to “a job well done” quicker is going to always be something your team is interested in. In this respect, speed actually helps with overall morale and job satisfaction.
None of the above, however, can take place in a culture that is aggressive, dictatorial and generally unhealthy. To gain the benefits above you need to have a positive, supportive and trusting culture. So when you set out to “pick up the pace” in your operation, be sure that you aren’t a jerk about it. And it also bears mentioning one last time, that if you sacrifice quality for speed you are likely accomplishing the exact opposite of what you set out to do. Our goal here is to come up with ways to work faster AND better. So when you start thinking about improvements you’d like to make within your organization, give speed some consideration.
I would love to know your thoughts on this post so please leave your likes and comments below. Also, if you haven't checked out any of my three books yet, give them a look here, I am absolutely positive they will be a great help in your career!