Strategic Speed and the Skills You Need

December 14, 2010

Leadership is a term you read in business magazines across all industries. As the workplace rapidly undergoes its evolution, skilled leaders face numerous challenges.

The concept of leadership from a power of slow perspective is particularly intriguing because we normally don’t think of leaders as people who embrace slow, tactical solutions. At the forefront of any organization, leaders, especially C-suite ones, are tasked with high visibility. Oftentimes, they’ll go for the impressive outward move to show investors they are ‘doing something’. But is a fast pace always the sign of good leadership?

Not always.

I can recommend two books that point to the importance of taking things slowly when times call for it rather than falling prey to the sirens of speed.

Aptly entitled Strategic Speed: Mobilize People, Accelerate Execution, this Harvard Business Press book written by Jocelyn Davis, Henry Frechette, Jr. and Edwin Boswell, underscores the fact that slow is faster. They claim, among other things, that when top athletes strive to relax, they actually increase their speed. They point toward new metrics for speed. Smart organizations look to increase the time to value (meaning how long it takes to train the new employee to be ‘up to speed’ on the tasks of the job), but also consider the value over time (if I train the personally properly and invest time in him or her upfront, I will benefit from his or her value over time). More efficient companies (such as India’s Tata Sky satellite TV company) focus on clarity of vision, unity (employees stand behind the vision with a spirit of teamwork) and agility (adaptability in the changing business environment). Perhaps most importantly is the work climate in which people are employed. You can tell when you walk into a place where the morale is high. As a customer, you can feel it in every pore of your being. Great leadership trickles down to every aspect of the organization. Speed for speed’s sake is never desirable (except, perhaps, on the race track!).

The IT industry is a stellar example of how the workplace has changed. I remember fighting with the IT department to get them to fix my computer when it would crash. Their standard response was “Have you rebooted?” Today, IT is not only a part of internal affairs in most companies, but an equal player in the viability of the company in client-facing activities as well.

The CIO Edge: Seven Leadership Skills You Need to Drive Results by Graham Wallter et.al can be summarized in one sentence: “Soft skills drive hard results.” The seven skills a top Chief Information Office (CIO) needs today include:

1)      Top commitment to leadership (everything else, including tech savvy, comes second)

2)      Think analytically, act collaboratively (the social-participative leader is the most successful one. He or she asks everyone about their opinion on things, considers them, weighs them against the situation and incorporates the best ideas into an optimum solution)

3)      Go sideaways to move ahead (don’t just ‘report up’ and ignore down; consider all sides to the equation)

4)      Effective communication

5)      Inspire others

6)      Build people, not systems

7)      Gain greater fulfillment on the job and in your life

The seventh ‘skill’ is all about the power of slow from an alignment perspective. When we are aligned in everything we do, it doesn’t matter what we do or how long it takes. We’re in flow. The power of slow applies to leaders as it applies to the rest of us, too.

Everyone’s a leader. You lead your life. And that’s worth a lot more than just money in the bank.

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3 Responses to “Strategic Speed and the Skills You Need”


  1. Hi Christine,
    Great post … Strategic Speed does back up your message around the “power of slow.” We have been using a Latin phrase “Festina Lente” (Make Haste Slowly) to talk about these concepts.

    Steve

  2. Suzanne Says:

    Great insights you’ve shared, as always, Christine. The value of focusing on the task at hand versus rushing to the finishline is something I wish all business leaders understood. Then, maybe they wouldn’t want to conduct their positioning & messaging in a two hour board meeting or “over coffee” some morning.


  3. Thank you, Suzanne! I wonder what the world would be like if everyone went at their custom-made speed…


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