Monday, June 03, 2013

Don’t rush what should be taken slowly

Having just returned from a boating holiday where the maximum cruising speed is 6mph, I’ve been starkly reminded of just how fast the pace of modern life is. After the leisurely flow of English rivers, stepping into my car and navigating traffic and motorways at speed was a sharp awakening indeed.

Speed, and with it the expectation that everything can be done quickly, is inherent to the mindset of modern business life, affecting everything from communications, production, market responsiveness and logistics. There are benefits of course, but the danger is it can give the illusion that everything can and even should be done at speed – and that change can be affected instantly.
Navigating a boat has factors inherently different from driving a car. Steering and manoeuvring has to be done with anticipation – a rudder is not as instantaneous as a car steering wheel. Even more significantly, a boat does not have brakes – you need to slow down ahead of time or use reverse gear to stop. To navigate a boat effectively, particularly in a crowded marina, you need anticipation as you don’t always have the luxury of changing your mind at the last minute.

So whilst speed of communications is great, it’s vital in business not to carry the expectation that all can happen instantaneously. There are some things where slow is definitely best, including strategic decision-making, affecting major changes and altering the direction of a business.  These all require levels of anticipation, precise actions, intelligence gathering and monitoring - all more akin to navigating a boat than driving a car.
Slow is also best when it comes to leading people. We can’t just expect to turn the steering wheel and assume everyone is with us – leadership needs to anticipate the time it will take and the continual reinforcement of new direction.

The anticipation and thoroughness needed to navigate a boat is also needed when taking important decisions in our own life. When it comes to moving, changing jobs or taking on new responsibilities it is best to takes things slow and steady. Most car drivers today apparently use way too much acceleration and braking – if you used the same approach to drive your life you’d wear yourself out in no time!

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