We are racing rapidly towards 2017 (where did this year go?), and never have I seen such a compelling argument for business leaders to adopt the "need for speed" as part of their culture.
The phrase that haunted me from my course at UC Berkeley HAAS school of business is "If you don't someone else will", suggests that if you don't move rapidly in your business to implement strategies and actions, others will. Those "others" may be existing competitors, or as we are seeing more and more, fresh new entrants. Think Uber to taxis and Airbnb to hotels.
A good example is Tesla which started producing cars in 2008 and really shifted gear into mass production with the Model S in 2012. In one of the toughest industries to enter, Tesla within the space of 8 years has become a household name.
A year to adopt the idea, a year to produce business cases and amend budgets and then a year or two at best to implement. During this four to five year process nimble, agile entrepreneurs can race ahead. of slow moving corporates.
I also find that while it is important to have considered thinking, many organisations are procrastinating. "Democratic" management hierarchies are stifling debate. dumbing down decisions and slowing down decisions.
I have seen organisations undertake management buy outs in the space of six months while others take three years.If a major company can do an MBO in six months, then surely a new website can be created in two months or selling our existing products into a new market should take no more than three months. Leaders are setting themselves up for failure by accepting a culture of stretched timelines.
Speed will give you the competitive edge, and if you don't move quickly in your business, guaranteed others will seize the opportunity. It is not a matter of big corporate's beating small businesses anymore. It is about fast businesses versus slow businesses.
7 Ways to develop speed.
1. Think as an entrepreneur. If you were setting up tomorrow to compete with your own business, what would you do differently? What would be the priorities you would focus on? You need to document the urgent big ticket items.
2. Work out why decisions or major projects are taking too long in your business. Work out the blockages. Every business is different and has its own unique culture. I would use the "Five Whys" tool, to identify "Why are decisions taking too long?"
3. Do an agility audit. McKinsey have a very useful guide to what is agility and the importance of agility.
4. Set a deadline and work backwards. Don't write a plan where the end date is a result of all the actions. This will lead to the actions driving the timing. Urgency must create the timing.
5. Have a good change process that you follow every time. I use the Mindshop 8 week cycle, so every 8 weeks we can drive the thinking and have a plan around any major issue. The teams produce a GANNT chart and also examine their likelihood of change success using the Mindshop "Change Success Audit".
6. Accountability. It is important that any major change has someone who is independent of the project monitoring the speed of implementation. At Dropbox, they have the Objectives and Key Results ("OKR") police. The police have the right to question anyone in the company right up to CEO level on how they are progressing on a project, and if they are behind, why they are behind and what are their plans to get back on track.
7. Resource properly. Too many people get distracted by their day jobs and use this as an excuse as to why longer term projects have not been tackled. Either take tasks off existing people to free them up, or employ additional resource to help out.