The pace is frenzied – even desperate – in most organizations today. Restructuring, revamping IT systems, and reengineering processes are just a few of the major initiatives driving big changes across organizations. At departmental levels projects, goals and objectives, and operational bottlenecks expand exponentially.
Add with today’s 24/7, always on and always connected technology, all this frantic activity is overloading and overwhelming many people. Stress and burnout rates are epidemic. And as Edward Hallowell, psychiatrist and the founder of the Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health in Sudbury, Massachusetts finds that all this harried multitasking also makes us less effective (see “Multitasking Dumbs Us Down and Ups Our Stress”.)
Now there’s yet more evidence that speed slows up and dumbs down organizations as well. The May issue of Harvard Business Review reported on our study of 343 businesses (conducted with the Economist Intelligence Unit.) The authors report “the companies that embraced initiatives and chose to go, go, go to try to gain an edge ended up with lower sales and operating profits than those that paused at key moments to make sure they were on the right track. What’s more, the firms that ‘slowed down to speed up’ improved their top and bottom lines, averaging 40% higher sales and 52% higher operating profits over a three-year period.”
There’s an excellent comparison chart in, “Need Speed? Slow Down,” showing how “firms sometimes confuse operational speed (moving quickly) with strategic speed (reducing the time it takes to deliver value) — and the two concepts are quite different.” If you can slow down to read this one page article, it could help you and your organization move strategically faster.
Regular readers of this blog and The Leader Letter have heard quite a lot from me on this critical topic of personal, team, and organization effectiveness. That’s because we’re constantly running into this problem as we help Clients with leadership and culture development. Getting management teams to step back and more strategically deal with making team and organizational changes and improvements can be a real challenge. Too many managers want to gallop madly off in all directions.
If you’ve missed some of my past posts and articles on this topic, here are a few you can read and use to do a speed check:
- June 2005 issue of The Leader Letter was focused on dealing with priority overload.
- May 2010 issue of The Leader Letter was focused on speed traps, spring clean up, and reducing priority overload.
- The Learning Paradox: Slow Down to Grow Faster
- “Reader Reflections on Frantic Busyness, Priority Overload, and The Acceleration Trap”
How do you keep yourself, your team, or your organization focused, balanced, and on track?