In my previous post, I talked about the blight of teams today: the overpowering compulsion to go fast. I’m not delusional and arguing for a return to the leisurely pace of the good old days. I’m just worried that teams that try to go fast actually go slowly. The problem lies in the difference between trying to go fast and trying to get to there faster. What you want is to get there faster.
But doesn’t getting there faster entail going fast? Actually, not always.
Often, getting there fastest requires slowing down, going backward, or changing direction altogether. For many team members, this will feel slow. Here are just a few of the things that slow you down and get you there faster.
- Starting a meeting by reviewing the agenda and desired outcomes
- Listening to people without interruption
- Defining terms and asking clarifying questions
- Reiterating what is said to ensure clarity
- Validating someone’s concerns and asking for more information
- Going around to have people explicitly state their agreement with a decision
There are a few things you can do that will actually help you go faster.
What are We Solving For?
If there is one magic line that will help you go fast, it’s “what are we solving for?” It works in so many different situations. At the start of a meeting, it gets your team focused on what needs to be achieved in the meeting. “What do we need to solve for in this meeting?”
It’s a great tool for re-centering a discussion that is going all over the map. “I’m hearing a few different points and I’m not sure we’re on the same issue. What do we need to solve for first?” Read more on that approach here.
It’s also very useful when people are having a disagreement. “Bob, you’re proposing that we use contractors. What are you trying to solve for with that approach?”
What are we solving for is my go-to line in so many different circumstances. It gets straight to the issues of alignment and clarity. At the same time, it’s low threat and unlikely to create resistance.
Hairpins and Straightaways
Another really useful way to create a conversation about the speed of your team is to borrow from auto racing to use the language of hairpins and straightaways. The idea is that some decisions are routine and can be handled quickly—those are the straightaways. When you’re on a straightaway and the analytical types try to slow things down—invoke the straightway rule to move more quickly. In contrast, when the decisive, action-oriented folks are trying to go too fast on a decision with greater complexity or higher risk, switch to hairpin mode. Spend some time up front defining what makes an issue a hairpin or a straightaway. Then set the rules of engagement for each.
One of the greatest causes of delay on teams is passive-aggressive behavior. Team members who don’t feel heard, understood, or valued take their resistance underground. Then you keep wondering why your project isn’t getting implemented or the expected benefits aren’t being realized. If you attempt to force consensus with someone who isn’t ready, their concerns will show up later—and inevitably slow you down. To get to your destination more quickly, invest the time to solicit opinions, particularly opinions that are contrary to a forming consensus. I’ve written more about that here.
I agree that teams need to make rapid progress. But I know from experience that rapid progress is not what you get when you try to go to fast. When you try to go too fast, you get sloppy decisions based on insufficient information with little hope of being executed effectively. On the other hand, when you move deliberately, sometimes slowly, you actually arrive at your destination more quickly.