Organizational speed is the outcome derived from purposeful internal actions and common-sense policies. Everything is getting faster than ever before, including computers, cars, trains, airplanes, communication, and even Olympic athletes’ performances. Competition is no longer generated in China, Germany, or India.
Today’s most serious competition is generated by two guys working insane hours in their garage in a startup venture leveraging a variety of technological platforms that will devastate an entire industry and render many legacy companies obsolete within few years. Within the span of fewer than eighteen months, YouTube went from a startup founded by Chad Hurley’s credit cards to being sold to Google for $1.4 billion.
As of this writing, Uber was valued at more than $72 billion, more than forty times its value a few years ago. Groupon leaped from conception to $2.4 billion. Usage of technological advents and the speed of market evolution has fostered the right environment for an expansion of a new breed of organizations that are scaling at a record level, attracting investors and customers, and generating market value at a pace never conceived even possible few years ago.
Companies that relied in the past on size and longevity are no longer shielded from newer startups that are scalable, fast-moving, and use smart, modern systems that allow them to gain a competitive edge. This is the age of billion-dollar startups, where the best and brightest companies compete at a breakneck speed. Today, the fastest win, as long as the organization keeps speed, efficiency, and innovation as a core foundation.
Organization speed defines the company’s ability to seize opportunities, act against external threats, innovate, expand to new markets, learn quickly, and hire and retain talented people that thrive in a fast-paced environment.
Companies built around the idea of speed and innovation are dominating the market, e. g., Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Tesla. These companies’ ability to make fast decisions in terms of innovation and creativity to serve the market has propelled them to become global giants.
In contrast, companies like Blockbuster, Blackberry, Kodak, and Myspace are either out of business or have changed what they do because of their inability to move fast enough to meet market demand.
Samsung’s slogan, “perpetual crisis” is a strong message that organizational growth happens when you stretch beyond your natural limits, break conventional thinking, and adapt to global changes and breakneck innovation speed. Apple is another company that moved with incredible speed to new business areas and dominated them from the start.
Fast Growth Dominates Slow Growth
Domino’s Pizza realized that the biggest issue with home delivery pizza was by the time it arrived at its destination, it was cold. Hence, Domino’s focus on one specific unique selling proposition to turn a regional player into a global brand. “Pizza delivered to your door in thirty minutes or its free.”
Domino’s realized that winning was all about speed, so it transforms its business model to exploit that opportunity. Domino’s new concept was to serve its customers quality pizza fast and at the expected temperature. The business concept allowed Domino’s local brand to become a global household name.
Historically, the business world was about the survival of the fittest; today’s business is about the survival of the fastest — speed matters in any race. Speed is required in thinking, decision-making, implementation, execution, delivery, getting a yes, getting funded, and gaining a competitive advantage.
Fast growth yields high returns, and it predicts the longevity of the company and the sustainability of its business model. Company growth depends on the following factors: market demand, rapid adoption, and capitalization. Companies that don’t increase their top line will stop growing and become either subject to an acquisition or financial insolvency. Sales and profit-making are vital for survival.
Strategic Growth is the CEO Primarily Job
The CEO needs to be in a competing mode at all times. He should be looking for ways to grow fast, take advantage of opportunities faster than his competitors, and predict market trends that could allow new growth and geographic expansions. Growth requires refocusing time and resources on faster-growing areas where the company has expertise, capabilities, and assets needed for profitable growth.
Every CEO should be asking the following questions to evaluate and accelerate his company growth:
- What growth level do we need to achieve? Moreover, how fast do we need to acquire it?
- What markets are available to compete in?
- What risk would we incur in our core markets?
- What opportunities are available to allow us to create enough cash flow to sustain our business while investing in the new expansion
- When should we act?
Slow is a Sign of Dysfunctionality
Throughout my career, I have seen significant deals lost because of slower reaction, misalignment of priorities between cross-functional teams, disagreement among managers, and pure stupidity.
I have witnessed talented people leaving companies because they couldn’t handle slow deliberate decision-making anymore.
Many got tired of internal corporate bickering, self-sabotaging, back-stabbing corporate games, and snail-pace decision-making, so they left.
Winning large deals in B2B space is a complicated process. It takes a great deal of effort and ingenuity to win a contract. Losing a deal for frivolous reasons, like the deliberate slow reaction from a specific manager or department due to personal agendas, internal rivalry, or power shows, is counterproductive and harmful to the salesperson and the organization.
Many hard-earned deals die a slow death waiting for cross-functional team decision-making or painfully slow-decision-making by some corporate managers that act like they are doing you a favor with each approved sale. Many senior managers pretend to be way too busy to move people’s requests at an acceptable rate.
Playing the power and ego game is alive and well in most organizations. Everyone knows the managers who are working and those who pretend to work, those who move things along because it’s the essence of the job, and those who create bottlenecks to exert control and stay relevant.
Deliberate Slow Decision-Making
I worked with a senior vice president who was known for his slow decision-making. It took a minimum of three emails of back and forth before he considered approving even the most frivolous thing.
He bragged about his management philosophy of checks and controls. He complained about division performance, but he never realized that he was asphyxiating the production velocity by his inadequate decision-making rationale.
Some managers either pretend to be perfectionists or are unable to make decisions fast enough because of fear of making a mistake or love of control. Routine decision-making should be performed quickly.
Arrangements that require additional input and clarity should be handled with care and speed. Tough decisions should be worked on with a sense of urgency and priority because these are the decisions that have the most impact on revenue, policy, risk, and progress.
Slow decision-making costs organizations’ time, money, relationships, reputation, and affects salespeople’s morale negatively.
It’s mind-boggling the level of incompetence we see at the corporate senior management level sometimes. The sales manager must deal with intense pressure coming from the salesperson and often angry clients who have a business to run.
Selling is a high-speed marathon. The salesperson may be working a deal for a long time, but the moment the customer signs the contract, the sprint begins. Smart companies will work as a force of one to get everything done super fast by understanding the customer up-and-running according to plan.
Slow companies ignore time, build frustration along the way, and by the time the business solution is delivered, the customer is already tired of hearing excuses and apologies from everyone. Time-saving is often as valuable as the business solution sold. Once, The client is irritated, nothing can remove that feeling from one mind. Slow is perceived as incompetence, and incompetence is the antithesis of trust.
Slow Decision-Making Disrupts Innovation and Creativity.
Blackberry was a leading cell phone manufacturer that dominated the business world a decade ago. However, because of the lack of innovation and slow decision-making, they lost their competitive edge to other cell phone manufacturers that were more innovative, audacious, and faster decision-makers.
Blockbuster’s deliberate decision-making not to embrace online streaming contributed to its business demise. Seizing an opportunity has everything to do with timing and fast action. Ethical rapid decision-making encompasses risk, but it’s better than deliberate hesitation, slow fact-gathering, and waiting for the perfect timing that may never come
Unfortunately, most companies operate inefficiently because of broken systems and broken internal communication and alignment among cross-functional teams and managers. You would expect that senior managers should know the economic impact they have for slowing the process, but they don’t, and those who do don’t care, as long as they play “the boss”. Slow decision-making leads to loss of financial opportunities and diminished employee morale of their leadership and the brand.
When Authority Yield Paralysis
Jack was a regional vice president in a telecommunication company. He had two hundred salespeople reporting to him, and he operated without an administrative assistant due to a new cost-cutting strategy. When I met Jack in a local coffee shop for a chat, he looked exhausted and expressed that he was tired of his senior managers’ decision-making, horrible response time. He was contemplating moving to another smaller company where the decision-making pace was somewhat acceptable.
Me: What’s going on, Jack? You seem like you have a lot in your mind?
Jack: I don’t understand why today, the development cycles of products and services is getting shorter, which is excellent as it gives us more opportunities to penetrate our markets. However, it seems that our credit department folks and finance managers are deliberately slowing the decision-making process. They are acting as the antithesis of speed. They are holding action hostage because they fear to make a mistake.
Sales revolve around the speed of delivery. My people are working hard to win new business, and once they submit the contract, the process takes forever. It’s demoralizing and paralyzing.
Most of our business solutions require multiple approvals and assistance from a variety of cross-functional teams and support teams to deliver on the customized solution.
However, when every department is slow to act, it makes our job near impossible. Senior managers are aware of the problem, but they are not doing much to change the behavior. I’d instead work for an organization that moves fast, even when things are not perfect.
Focused Speed Beats Slow Accuracy
Great organizations like Facebook are obsessed with speed. Mark Zuckerberg quoted, “move fast and break things.” and “If you never break anything, you’re probably not moving fast enough.” My salespeople’s morale has shattered because, despite their best effort, they feel that their efforts are not appreciated by senior management.
Me: Are your executives aware of the situation?
Jack: The executive team is aware. However, I believe they don’t know what to do to resolve this problem. It seems that sales is the only department that is working with a sense of urgency here. When we try to push these folks, we get not only push back, but we get lectured by mediocre people who are not doing their jobs.
Senior managers are hard to reach; decision-making is painfully slow, often requiring too many unnecessary back-and-forths. It’s just a quagmire. I honestly feel that the reason we are not advancing fast enough is that we are self-sabotaging.
Me: How do you propose to speed up the process?
Jim: We need to trust and verify. Making quick decisions is vital to moving forward. We need to streamline the whole process of decision-making. We cannot slow our growth pace and loss of business by creating walls every step of the way. Simplifying the current process is a must for our sakes.
To remain competitive, relevant, and agile in this global market, organizations need to establish a decision-making process across the board. The right -decision-making policy (trust your employees and allow full autonomy in decision making— hire intelligent people and allow them to act as such)will prepare the organization to stay relevant and on the right path when faced with leadership turnover, operations changes, or shifts in the business model.
A consistent and thoughtful approach should be the norm when making business decisions that affect the company, employees, and customers. Everyone should be accountable for the quality and speed of his decision-making.
Organization of Speed
Most organizations fail not because their products and services are poorly designed or have little market appeal to create enough revenue. They fail because the decision-making process is handled only by a few busy employees. It’s a capacity and speed issue!
1. A conscious matrix of speed. Developing an organization that is conscious of the value of speed across its departments and processes can eliminate stagnation, create a speed culture, and promote innovation.
2. Productivity and speed must be measured. System and process bottlenecks need to be defined, studied, and improved upon. By monitoring progress and the impact of adopted changes, the company can determine the factors that contributed to its output.
3. Employee collaboration. Cooperation among the company’s cross-functional teams is an essential element to productivity and success. Cross-departmental partnership improves morale, speeds execution, and improves results.
4. Fast Thinkers. Some managers and employees tend to learn, think, and act faster than others. A quick salesperson may find it hard to work for a slow manager. Salespeople who are used to communicating more quickly via text and emails may find it challenging to work with a manager who prefers a phone conversation. A faster employee needs to be put in a position where the speed of decision-making is paramount. Slower individuals need to work in areas that match their capabilities.
5. Rapid but accurate decision-making. The company should provide continuous training to develop individuals to make rapid and accurate decisions. Errors should be tolerated because experience dictates accuracy.
6. Cross-functional team sharing. An internal employee sharing system should be implemented to allow different individuals to share best practices and new information. Sharing discoveries that improve decision-making processes should be encouraged and rewarded accordingly.
7. Eliminate barrier to speed. By establishing a culture of speed, all employees should be educated in making speed a priority in everything they do.
8. Reduce the manager’s approval to a minimum. Approvals slow the process of revenue generation. If consent is required, then you should reduce the time needed to get it to an acceptable minimum.
9. Benchmark your speed against your competitors. Your organization should gather data from your industry competitors and benchmark their decision-making time against yours. If it takes a week to get your business solution in the hand of your customer and your competitor does the same thing in one day, you have a problem that needs to be resolved fast. Your time should be equal to or less than your competitor’s.
10. Reward for speed and accuracy. Customers expect both quality and speed. Reward your employees for achieving both components. Conduct internal contests that promote speed among cross-functional teams by measuring the positive impact that speed has on the company’s bottom line.
11. Pair the slow with the fast. Hesitant managers need to be paired with faster peers to learn. Managers who refuse to adapt to the company requirements will need to be released of their duties.
12. Train for speed. The training department must develop courses, educational programs, and interactive systems to allow managers and employees to think, act, and react fast.
Speed is all around us. In business, the fastest eat the slowest.
Entrepreneurs move as fast as they humanly can to win new projects. Customers expect fast delivery and excellent performance. Yet, despite all effort that goes into the process, some internal managers slow their decision-making to avoid errors and mistakes.
That is why the company needs to educate everyone that a well-intentioned mistake is an opportunity to learn and get better. No blame game!
Fast companies are not necessarily the company with the best products, services, or prices. These companies are fundamentally the most adaptable and most tolerant of risk. Risk leads to opportunities, and the latter leads to revenue growth and expansion.
Speed and technological advents made the most traditional industries ripe for disruption. Nowadays, the imagination and innovation of entrepreneurs make it possible to take an idea from conception to a billion-dollar startup in a short period of time.
Legacy organizations that capitalize their future on their size, longevity, resources, and market dominance will be devastated by smart startups that rely on technological evolution, smarts, innovation, and social, digital on-demand partnerships to dominate sectors that were deemed safe in the past.
In addition, employees and managers who act as a bottleneck to progress will need to evolve fast or risk being terminated. Leaders run companies, and the same leader’s behaviors can either slow or propel the organization’s development often faster than any mechanical or technological platform can.