Our society is changing and accelerating – with “speed of the essence.” It used to take years for a product to achieve its break-through, but nowadays it takes no more than a single day for some apps to reach a million downloads. And even this process can still be accelerated. From days into hours, minutes; maybe even into seconds.
How does your organization cope with this acceleration? How do you stay in control in this fast-changing world? How do you manage? How do you prevent total chaos? Or worse: how do you prevent complete paralysis?
Darwin for business
The answer to these questions is relatively simple: become the best in being able to react quickly! Organizations that manage to embody this “need for speed” deeply into their DNA are capable of dealing with uncertainty in a dynamic environment. Stop this endless planning. Instead decide upon the direction in which you want to go, take action and see if that leads to the desired effect. Learn by experimenting, instead of expecting everything to go according to plan. Responding to change really is more important than following a plan.
Charles Darwin already taught us that only those organisms that can adapt to change survive: Survival of the Fittest. So, make sure that your organization is quick, agile, and fit. Make sure you can react to changing situations quickly. Make sure you’re always ready, ready for anything!
Customer-focused mini-companies and speed
You can achieve this by making sure that everything within your organization is focused on customer impact. See to it that providing customer-value, and providing it fast, is the focus of everything that you do. See to it that everyone is continuously busy improving the life of your customer just a little bit each day. In order to achieve this it’s of course necessary that everyone is really connected to the customer. That everyone sees and experiences the impact you and the people around you have on the customer. This often takes a thorough change. It means transforming your complete organization into multi-disciplinary and cross-functional teams that are each dealing with a limited number of customers.
So, transform your organization into a fleet of mini-companies: small, agile, self-governing teams. Mini-companies in close proximity to the customer, mini-companies that are completely free to intervene if and when they see fit. Self-managing, self-organizing, and in extreme cases, maybe even self-governing. No need to ask the boss’s permission, instead make your own decisions: for speed and the direct benefit of the customer. Only then everyone in your organization has an outward look.
Only then, is everyone focused on customer-impact. Which leads inevitably to success because success follows automatically if you’re the fastest and the best in helping your customers.
Fundamental change in thinking: customer centricity
Especially bigger organizations find that hard to do. For they’ve been losing sight of their customer for years now. They’re focusing on their own organization and their own petty activities all day long. Everyone is busy dealing with their own colleagues and people are running from one meeting to the next.
To them, it seems like they’re the center of the universe and customers are circling around them at great distances. People had the same misconception centuries ago. Everyone thought that the sun circled the earth. And this seems correct, seen from the earth. Nowadays we know better: it’s the other way around. Copernicus proved that the earth circles the sun. And the same goes for the customer’s position.
The customer is the center and the organizations circle around them. Your organization circles around the customer like so many others. And the customer makes their own choice as to whom they like to cooperate with. And the funny thing is: if that customer feels that they matter to your organization, that you’re there for them, that you’re constantly focused on providing instant value (speed again), then that customer will choose your organization, instead of someone else’s. So, here too, it’s up to you to show initiative. Focus on your customer’s interests and look for instant value. Look where you can expect to deliver that particular value. But also keep an open mind to find values you yourself never expected to find, or your customer never expected you to deliver.
Light-weight makes faster
Smaller and lighter ways of organizing make you agile and responsive. And this too was already discovered years ago. As Newton taught us in 1687: a=F/m. Acceleration is Force divided by Mass. In order to accelerate, you not only need to become more forceful, you also need to become lighter. Less mass makes you accelerate and it makes you fleet-footed and agile. So focus your energy on fleet-footedness. Then acceleration will be the result. It works that way in sports and in how you organize yourself. A powerful organization that becomes heavier and heavier, becomes slower and slower. Smaller teams authorized to self-organize will help you to get agile and to accelerate.
Speed is not the problem: it’s the solution! Because the more speed you have, the sooner you’ll be ready – then and only then. Ready to respond, ready to change, ready for the unexpected. Always ready. Ready for anything!
Speed is deeply rooted in the DNA of responsive enterprises.
Join me at #SMD2017 as I talk about speed
In my keynote speech at the IT service management (ITSM)-focused Service Manager Day this month, I’ll be exploring this further and, in addition to the why behind this change, enlightened by examples and pitfalls, I’ll also be discussing the how and the what.
Rini Van Solingen is the CTO of Prowareness (scrum.nl) a leading service supplier in Agility and Scrum, helping customers to get their software engineering under control and rigourously increasing their return-on-investment and team productivity.
As a professor at Delft University of Technology he also investigates how to make global teams hyper-productive and how to decrease the impact of distance in global software engineering.