What is the Optimal Speed for Businesses to Operate at?
I have often asked myself whether there is an optimal speed for businesses to operate at. And if there is then what speed is that? Is it best to pin your ears back and take on a lot of new things at once? Or work at a slow, cautious, more methodical pace? Or do something in between?
It is a perplexing question but I don’t think the answer is any of these. I do believe there is one optimal speed for all businesses to operate at but it is (curiously) different for every business.
The best speed, in my view, is to go is as fast as you can without losing control. That is, be driven by a sense of urgency to get things done but don’t move faster than your underlying ability to successfully execute what you want to do. This is the concept of making slow haste. The intersection point (the fastest speed possible moderated by the internal capability to successfully execute your plans) is the sweet spot of slow haste and arguably the optimal speed for businesses to operate at.
What this means in practice is that no matter how long your to-do list is, or how urgent things seem, you must be capable of ingesting, implementing (and more importantly embedding) these initiatives before moving on to the next thing(s) on your list. To do this there must be sufficient capacity within your structure and team to oversee and manage anything new. Implicit in this is a requirement to have a strong set of business rules (i.e. principles and values) in place which govern the organisation’s behaviour and which are supported by rock-solid processes and procedures which allow things to get done quickly without having to reinvent the wheel every time you do something new.
These rules and procedures are critical to maintaining speed within a business. No matter how good you think you might be if your plans out-pace your capacity to execute them you’ll break your team and create frustration. This is a common problem in many businesses. Conversely if you go too slow you’ll risk boredom, miss opportunities and expose yourself to more aggressive competition.
In the end ideas are cheap and readily available. What is less common is the capacity to successfully execute these ideas and turn them into something important and meaningful. They key is to have a clear (and honest) understanding of your internal capabilities and what you can sensibly get done and within what timeframe. The next step is to take DELIBERATE action. The companies that do this efficiently and regularly move forward with slow haste, achieve a lot and eventually become unstoppable in their marketplaces…
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