Moving fast doesn’t guarantee fast (or effective) results

The popular animal fable of the tortoise and the hare helps us see that the slow and steady one can cross the finish line first. Beware of that hare!
The popular animal fable of the tortoise and the hare helps us see that the slow and steady one can cross the finish line first. Beware of that hare!

With never-ending pressure to get results out of yourself and your team, it’s tempting to move fast. Why shouldn’t you forge ahead like a steam roller? The more you do, the more you can achieve. Right?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Moving fast does not guarantee fast results, nor effective outcomes. 

There is a real need to be efficient

Businesses are constantly faced with the realities of accomplishing a boatload of work in a short amount of time. There is a real need to be efficient, fast, and productive in order to compete in today’s marketplace. However, savvy managers know how to prioritize and how to work a project plan at a pace that matches the needs and stakes involved. 

The first step is making sure that you don’t have too much stacked on your plate. I often see fast-paced managers take on too many projects at once. This can burden a team who doesn’t have the bandwidth to accommodate all the work. Instead, keep your eye on the need for all projects, but tackle them in priority order.

Next, be clear on the pace in which an individual works best. Every one has their own unique way, ranging from methodical and focused to rapid, even chaotic, with many of us falling in between the ends of the spectrum. The slow and steady approach, like the tortoise in the popular animal fable, can get results. On the flip side, a fast-paced work style is often lauded in our work cultures and there is something to be said for those who can constantly crank through tasks. Speed and quality need to be balanced, for sure.

Many ways to reach the finish line and the best way is not always fast

There is not a better way, though best results come when the pace matches the situation. Moving quickly makes sense for simple things that only involve a minimal number of players, and the stakes aren’t high. Conversely, a leader should move more carefully (and slowly) if a decision is multi-faceted, impacts a large group of people, or has significant ramifications. Planning a new product design or revamping existing company-wide policies should require more consideration.

For many, it seems counter-intuitive to slow down when you want to get fast results. However, that’s exactly what will give you a better chance of fast — and successful — outcomes, especially for large initiatives.

Moving too fast results in resistance. Managers then claim that “people hate change” but the adverse reaction is usually just a result of being on the receiving end of an aggressive stance without having an opportunity to offer a different perspective. Managers with the best intentions can set off fireworks unnecessarily by moving too fast. They need to realize that others can help them make a more informed decision while still working towards a common goal. The backlash can happen for a number of good reasons, including the following:

  • Some people need more time than others to adjust to change
  • Those most involved with the change have the best insights into what can go wrong and how to avoid complications
  • Engaged employees want to have a say in their work

Your job as a manager — whether of projects or people — becomes easier when you slow down and involve others in the process. You show your respect for your team when you ask for their input, opinion, and recommendations. Move fast when you can, but recognize when you need to beware of the hare!

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