Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Slowing Down Can Save You

Some people are snails and some are risk adverse.  However, it isSnail unlikely that those people are very successful in running businesses.  

Business leaders tend to see what is going to happen before others.  A successful friend of mine in the nonprofit world suggested that this is what it means to have vision.   But in addition to seeing what is ahead before others, they act on it swiftly.  They are first to market, first responders, first to invest in appreciating stocks, etc.  

Being able to be successful involves a combination of vision, speed, and risk management.  As a result, it seems that more often than not, a successful business leader’s default speed is full throttle.

It is for those business leaders that the admonition to slow down can be very important. 

There is a difference between going quickly in order to take advantage of benefits which will disappear as time goes on, and moving quickly because one has developed the habit of moving quickly in situations where the benefit is reducing as time moves on.  One is a sense of urgency based on a cost/benefit analysis, the other is a psychological condition.

It may seem obvious in some situations, like one should not market a new tech device without first getting intellectual property rights in place .  But other situations, or even certain details, may be less obvious.  For example, carefully reviewing real estate documents as well as carefully surveying the physical property before a purchase can result in catching issues and problems such as neighbor encroachments, unrecorded leases, and so on.  Furthermore, what may seem obvious to one person, may not have occurred to others.  An example is whether a particular person should be the CEO of the company—it may be the obvious end result to the business leader, but getting the pieces in place to facilitate the transition, getting buy in from other key players (including the candidate), and providing the right atmosphere for success, may require time.

The CEO example also highlights the fact that no one is operating in a vacuum.  Any time we act, as individuals or businesses, we are affecting others, some who have a say, others who do not, and many in between.  Managing these relationships is not easy, and can substantially slow down the business process.  Ignoring these relationships can be devastating.  Addressing them is an investment. 

Capital Do Not Enter (small) Politics is an example of this sort of relationship management, in some cases, run amok.  For example, when I worked in DC, I remember one Congressman in a key Committee Chairmanship expressing less than genuine doubts about certain legislation important to the President simply to get the President to call him. 

Politics is simply a large scale example of what goes on, whether we like it or not, in business all the time, i.e., the exercise and sharing of power.  The Founders put in mandatory checks and balances for the specific purpose of SLOWING THINGS DOWN where there was the exercise and sharing of the most power.  Likewise, in business, we should consider the value of slowing down to make sure what we are doing really makes sense, is really for the good of the business overall, and to manage the relationships.  In fact, it is often in taking the time to manage the relationships that we get the unique insight from other people as to what really makes sense, and what is really good for the business.

If people really are our best resource, let’s take the time to consult them, consider their input, and use them.


  1. Doug, one of my favorite passages from Prof. James O'Toole's book, "Leading Change: The Case for Values-based Leadership," is his citing of a simulated crash drill with 3 pilots in a cockpit. The ones who took a few seconds to consult with the other two had a 40 percent better success rate in the drill than those who took a "command and control" approach.

  2. Mike: Thanks for the insight. Well said.