Do you need to slow down to speed up?


Balancing operational and strategic speed for long-term success.

Lots of organisations are focused on the notion of speed.

Increased pace of production, demanding short-term objectives, hustling to make headway – these are often essential qualities of a fast-paced, consumer-led business.

What many of these companies fail to realise is that in their focus on being fast, they may be slowing down in the long term.

The crucial distinction here lies in the difference between operational and strategic speed: operational speed is moving quickly; strategic speed is achieving meaningful objectives in the most productive and effective manner overall.

Often, a focus on the former sacrifices the latter.

An example of this in action is an enterprise who misses a major opportunity in the market because they’re so focused on improving day-to-day activity that they fail to innovate.

Or, in another context, the carpenter who fails to make the piece of furniture he’d planned because he’s too busy cleaning his tools and organising his workshop.

So what can you do to ensure the proper balance between operational and strategic speeds?

Firstly, you need to be very clear about which type of speed you’re in investing in. Putting resource into improving operational speed is often essential, but don’t be fooled into thinking that this alone is enough to increase long-term productivity. Clarity about what you’re hoping to achieve and how action will translate into those objectives is key.

Hand in hand with this clarity comes clear communication across functions – siloed thinking and organisational structuring are the enemies of strategic speed. This is especially true for any company that is increasing in complexity: crossing markets or increasing the scope of service, for example, will require an increase in the effort we make to achieve clear communication and the resulting strategic speed we’re looking for.

Of course keeping strategic speed in mind doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t solve the simple problems, or neglect operational efficiency – we just need to invest our energy wisely.

And the operational/strategic balance isn’t only relevant on an organisational scale.

In the course of coaching, we often find that people are so caught up in their day-to-day that they forget to step back and evaluate what all the effort is for. We become guilty of being busy for busy’s sake, letting the plethora of daily tasks overtake the grand plan that we’d like to be reaching for.

Like many things in life, finding the best path is about perspicacity, communication, and balance.


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