Like marathons, growth efforts and organizational changes demand pacing, persistence and can be tough on the people involved. Unlike marathons, however, there is no finish line. The changes that drive the need for businesses to transform are many, including market competition, regulatory shifts and technology advancements. And they never end.

Within the Prioritized Leader framework, we have written about Purpose and People. Now we will look at Pace and address how hard you’re pushing your organization. Is it too fast or too slow? What are the signs we need to look out for to discern how fast or slow your organization needs to move to sustain growth and capitalize on opportunities?

Pace: the third priority

The holy grail of business is to have a business that behaves like a Swiss clock: tick tock, tick tock. No surprises. It just works day-in and day-out. A business that sustains you for years to come has rhythm, because with rhythm comes predictability and that’s precisely what you are looking for. To know with a fair degree of certainty what is going to happen tomorrow, next week and next month can help you plan, prepare and be pro-active.

The pace of an organization fosters a healthy work-life balance. But if you want to get to a company that works like a Swiss clock, you need to ask whether your company culture values rest and recreation. Do you or your people struggle with stepping away from job responsibilities to recharge the batteries? This is important because the resulting energy boost moves us forward to creativity and problem solving.

Are you or your people afraid to ask for help? Is it seen as a sign of weakness? Is the demanding pace of the job leaving little room to explore opportunities? It is important for leaders in organizations to have the wisdom to ask for help for themselves and their teams so that they can take the time to think strategically. Is the current pace determined by others or is it self-imposed? Do the people in your organization feel this pressure as well? If our work lives are characterized by the stress of fighting fires of urgency, our effectiveness is limited.

The Pace Quadrants

Over the long-term, every organization must predictably and intentionally manage development seasons as well as delivery seasons. Usually, we find that organizations and leaders are naturally good at one or the other.

High development, low Delivery (relaxed)

This type of organization has a lot of new ideas but has a relaxed implementation of those ideas. We call this “shiny object syndrome.” Organizations that fall into this quadrant have trouble saying “no” to things that are not in line with their vision or purpose. They may not even take adequate time to think through a project’s challenges and difficulties from all angles. Because of that they continually fall behind the competition.

Low development, low delivery (slow)

These companies are either slowing down or closing. They have been unable to pivot to market needs and threats. Blockbuster and Kodak come to mind as failed organizations that couldn’t pivot. Leaders need to ask themselves if they have the right team to pivot. They may also need to revisit their vision and strategic plan to examine if they are addressing the right market challenges.

Low development, high delivery (burned out)

Organizations in this quadrant repeatedly implement products but have very little creative space to address true market needs. They prize productivity over their people and subject them to the “idea of the week.” This results in employees chasing unrealistic deadlines and churning out products or services with very little thought to the true market needs. We also see manufacturers constantly churning out new production processes and place no value on testing ideas with a pilot or using continuous improvement models. People leave these companies at the first opportunity.

High development, high delivery (building)

These companies do a great job of managing the seasons of development and come up with new ideas and products that meet market needs. They also manage seasons of delivery with great implementation processes that produce products with high quality and on time. These organizations have learned how to get results by putting new, creative ideas into action. They focus on execution, getting products to market, holding employees accountable as well as being as efficient as possible. They have successfully found their tick-tock schedule.

What would it be like if your organization could run like a Swiss clock? Do you develop new ideas and work to intentionally adapt to cultural and industry changes? In what ways are you cultivating the ability to persistently and steadily grow over time? If you need help in working through these questions, The Vantage Group can help.

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