The idea of going slow….to go fast has been around for ages. It serves as a reminder of the importance to slow down, zoom out, and constantly reassess your surroundings. Intellectually knowing something is one thing. Actually, doing something about it is a completely different beast. Knowing requires wrapping your head around something. Doing requires a shift in behavior to act in new and unique ways. Often it takes leaders some time to build new habits around slowing down.
Pausing at key moments to make sure you’re on the right track, i.e. slowing down to speed up, can serve to improve results overall. 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. Higher performing companies with strategic speed made alignment a priority. Ultimately, strategic speed is a function of leadership.
Growth of the company isn’t all that matters. Strategy matters. People matter. Culture matters. Humility matters.
These are the aspects of business that suffer and ultimately fall apart at the seams when companies focus exclusively on moving fast. Yes, efficiency and speed of execution is important. That said, all too often leaders over-optimize for speed everywhere in the company, resulting in poor decision making, poor cultures, fragmented communication, ineffective feedback loops, uninformed and disengaged employees, and ultimately inferior results. Staff is overwhelmed. Burnout exists. Things are messy. It takes more than just focusing on going fast.
Going slow to go fast is both a way of thinking (mindset) and a way of being (behavior). In order for behaviors to shift, we have to first change the way we think about things. Going slow means investing in the things that matter long term and take time to develop, so that we can move quickly and become successful over the long haul. Focus on process and people. On systems and culture. On communication and feedback. On strategy and leadership.
A common theme is the notion of self-awareness and self-regulation in the pursuit of excellence. Consider reflection at different levels of learning and development.
- Look inward: What is most important to you? What values matter most and how are you manifesting them in what you are trying to achieve.
- Look outward: What matters most to others? What expectations do they hold that you need to address in order to be successful at your endeavors? How do they perceive you?
- Look back: What have you been trying to learn and what new things have you tried? What has worked well and what hasn’t worked? What have you learned?
- Look ahead: What will you do differently? What do you need to keep learning? Where are your opportunities to try new things?
The words of Michelangelo offer some useful advice: “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that our aim to too low and we reach it.” The bar for competent performance is continually being raised. Only those leaders who are self-reflective, intentional about their learning, and continually seeking to improve are likely to thrive.