Responsible speed trumps discipline, creativity and paranoia

In Jim Collins's new book, Great by Choice, he talks about how great companies choose to become great companies. They have a mix of discipline, paranoia and creativity that allows them to be more successful than other companies in their industry. In this area, we agree. Companies need to find out what will make them successful and focus on it with discipline and diligence.

In the book, he touches on a concept that I discuss often with my clients about how great leaders know when to go fast and when not to. I call this responsible speed. Great by Choice does not cover this concept in enough detail and almost treats it like a principle that everyone already knows about and follows. This couldn't be further from the truth. The calibration of operating speed can be the single greatest competitive advantage an organization has. Knowing when to slow down and when to speed up can change the position of a company overnight.

What if Research in Motion had decided to hold off on launching their Playbook tablet to compete against the iPad? If they had waited until the product was of better quality, maybe their stock price wouldn't have dropped by more than 80% since the beginning of 2011.

What if Toyota had slowed down their growth efforts? If they had allowed their quality processes to catch up with their pursuit of sheer volume, maybe they wouldn't have had to recall more than 15 million vehicles over the last four years.

What if Best Buy took more time in hiring the right people? Maybe they wouldn't have an employee turnover rate that is consistently more than 40%.

These are just few examples of the importance of knowing when to slow down and when to speed up. Discipline, creativity and paranoia are important, but knowing at what speed to run your business might trump them all.

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