Speed Thrills: Leadership Velocity

3 minute read

I’ve written a book about leading in an accelerated world. I’ve done this because I’ve spent years working with leaders who are frustrated by speed bumps and corporate torpor.

“We operate in an accelerated world where expectations from clients, from our consumers, from our shareholders and our partners are that things need to (and can) happen Superfast.”
The other day I watched ‘Mr Blandings Builds his Dream House’, a classic Cary Grant American film where an ad man in the city gets fed up of his small space in town and builds a big place in the country for his wife and kids. As an ardent Londonphile who has resisted the Surrey-pull the film didn’t really resonate with me. But the part that really made me chuckle was the fact that he had a key advertising campaign to deliver…with a six-month deadline on it. The bliss, the joy of a slower moving time! A time of letters not emails, of crafting and long lunches and reasonable, indulgent deadlines. That time, like Cary Grant, is sadly long gone. We operate in an accelerated world where expectations from clients, from our consumers, from our shareholders and our partners are that things need to (and can) happen Superfast.

Today we cannot take time – so we have to make time. We must make choices and we must make things happen. You can feel wistful about this acceleration of pace but you can’t rewind it. Navigating things at pace will give you and your business a competitive advantage.

If you are the kind of person who likes to make things happen, you’ll be impatient for progress. However, at Caffeine we believe it’s important to be in a hurry…but not in a rush.

Leadership in a Superfast world shouldn’t be about rushing or worshiping at the cult of busyness. If you want to stay sane and lead with principles and pace, it’s worth thinking about your attitude to urgency.

Here are three quick thoughts to get you started:

1. Going fast is not a strategy. 

Aim for ‘velocity’. Velocity is speed in the right direction.

Start with the destination in mind and the road will be easier and the speed faster. Mission-driven organisations move more rapidly. Articulating a clear ‘purpose’ for your organisation, (the ‘why’ , the aspirational reason it exists) will simplify strategic decision-making and inspire and energise your people to want to be part of it and want to deliver.

If you want to know more about articulating your purpose or putting your purpose (or mission) into practice internally, talk to us.

2. Work out what needs time.

Plan the ‘pauses’. If you are working in a fast-moving environment you may not feel you can stop to plan, reflect or discuss as a team. That is fatal. You end up with disconnected leadership teams working in silos & no ‘time to think’.

Leadership team away days, strategy planning sessions, organisation ‘Summits’; planned well and facilitated at pace can save months of meetings & speed up results immeasurably. Plan the pauses in your year with your team and bring in expert facilitation to get the most out of the day.

3. Work out how to save time (and work out how to keep the momentum going). 

Impatience is a virtue. Deadlines deliver.

‘How can we do this quicker?’ That should always be a question you ask. If it genuinely needs more time, make it but so often that’s not the case. You need to have an urgency imperative. That question then prompts the questions around whether there is a smart shortcut? What are the ‘accelerators’ here that will help boost our approach? These could be partnerships which could help or platforms to build on (our world is moving fast because of ‘stacked platforms’ – code on code – this doesn’t just have to be a digital aspect of business but building on what has gone before). Who are your human accelerators – people who’ve done it before or people with superpowers in certain areas – whether specialist skills or even just administrative and organisation excellence? What are the non-human accelerators – tech solutions to use? Can you parallel track things? Can you run a sprint to get it done? What kind of hacker mentality would help? How can you get fast feedback on what’s working and make sure you can move quickly? How many people need to approve things in this process; can you cut down the layers to increase the speed? Is there a fast decision-making model? Where are the speedbumps to slow down your success?

It’s worth investing time up front to plan and think this through so that you can aim for continuous momentum as you try things out, ‘polish’ them to improve or pivot direction as needed.

If you want to move fast, pause first and plan. Reckless speed kills your team and your business. Purposeful speed thrills and is exciting to be involved with. Set the right pace.

Superfast: Lead at Speed is being published in the UK and the US in August and I’m speaking at events across the year about this topic. I’m also building up a community of pace-setters who are interested in this area. If you’d like to hear more about how to lead at speed follow me on Twitter or email me (make it soon please).

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Sophie Devonshire
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