Slowing Down – The Next Big Cultural Challenge
For the last twenty plus years, whenever I’ve talked to CEOs personally, or read studies about the biggest cultural challenges they report facing within their companies, a near universal concern has surfaced – they are all looking to increase speed within their organization: speed to market, speed in decision-making, speed of execution.
The benefits of moving faster are obvious – building that type of culture is more complicated.
The obvious way to try to get an organization moving faster is to drill home the message that moving faster is important. That might succeed, but I’m skeptical.
We live in a world where the volume of information, news, and messages – both personally and professionally – has reached unbelievable levels. In an age of Tweets, tags, posts, and feeds, we’ve turned the amplifier up to “11” in every facet of our lives. If we want our organizations to execute faster and more efficiently, we need to give people more opportunities to slow down, contextualize, and think.
In talking about the expectations we place on the “doers” on our front line, Bernard Tyson is driving at the same point.
In our discussion, Bernard told me, “I’m very interested in figuring out how to make sure smart people at Kaiser Permanente are encouraged and allowed to think when they are working in this environment.”
He further explained that “We have more than 175,000 employees and about 16,500 Permanente Group Physicians who come here every single day. There are hundreds and thousands of decisions that are being made throughout the organization which I have no control over from where I sit.” What makes a company superior is when these decisions are made correctly the first time and by the person closest to the issue.
To build a culture that operates with that kind of efficiency, as leaders, we need to provide context for employees to consider their decisions, and then give them the time, space and freedom to really understand how they can most effectively drive execution of the company’s strategy from their perch. Sometimes, this means clearing times on calendars, shutting down cell phones, logging out of email, and creating opportunities for people to look at an issue, and really consider it, dialogue about it — and solve it.
In the world class organizations of the future, slowing down may very well become a competitive advantage.