“We’re lost, but we’re making good time.”

This is my new favorite quote. A client shared it with me last week. She used it to describe the feeling in the room as the executive team that she is a part of raced to come up with a solution without being aligned on what they were solving for.

This line so aptly captures the dynamic I witness: teams try to move fast at the expense of knowing where they are going. Inevitably, these are the teams that make the least meaningful progress.

Faux Fast

You’re antsy. The pressure is so great; the need to deliver so unrelenting, and a frenetic pace is taking over your whole team. And it’s not just in your weekly tactical meetings, it’s even the full-day offsite meetings, which you were hoping would be more relaxed.

The problem is that the desire to go fast is causing teams to slow down. Haste is affecting the quality of decisions, the ability to implement them, and the likelihood of sustaining them. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that any of these approaches is fast:

Diving into a conversation and moving immediately to action steps and accountabilities.

In your desire to promote accountability and execution, is your team doling out action items without first getting clarity on the issue? Moving to action steps without first determining the root cause will leave you with a solution in search of a problem. In the context of my favorite quote, you’ll be making good time on a trip you don’t need to take.

Using meeting time to get general alignment on a strategy and then going your separate ways to implement.

Are you satisfied once your team has batted around an idea for a while and reached alignment on what you’re trying to achieve? Everyone wants to feel strategic and fears being labeled as too tactical, but when the strategic conversation doesn’t transition into what success looks like, what the key milestones are, and how you will coordinate the activity, it’s bound to lead to people interpreting the strategy very differently. That’s when you agree to the destination, but don’t give anyone a map.

Raising an issue and setting a course of action right away based on the current knowledge and opinions in the room

Does your team highlight an issue and then feel the need to come up with a solution on the spot? Sure, you’re knowledgeable about your business, but not so all-knowing that you can diagnose the issue and map out all the options without talking to anyone. Without spending some time diagnosing the issue and hearing from those involved about options for solving it, you risk making a bad decision or at least a good decision that won’t get buy-in. Don’t speed off in the right direction without checking first if the roads are closed.

Why Fast is Slow

It’s so tempting to go faux fast. It’s easy to believe that the ground beneath you is solid and that one firm stomp on the accelerator will propel you forward. But each of the mistakes I outlined above sets you up to drain the tank, go in circles, or sink in the mud. Fast can be slow.

In the next post, how to get there faster.

Further Reading

Fast or Agile: Which are you Really Looking For?

How to Go Faster

In the Mirror: Are you the Tortoise of the Hare?

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