Why speed is what drives organizational success
Startups – the no-huddle offense of business
We all know speed kills…those that do not have it. Startups are the no-huddle offense of business. The no-huddle offense, for those unaware, is a football reference to an offensive system that runs plays without spending the time huddling up (coming together and talking about the next play). It can be devastatingly successful; outpacing and wearing down the defense, moving before the defence has a chance to react. Your startup needs to run a no-huddle offence to effectively run away from the competition.
Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook; all of these companies are giant organizations with more resources of human capital, actual capital, press, and political power than your startup could dream of. But your startup has one advantage over these companies, and you have to use it – speed. While Google is talking to HR and accounting about the proposed new company project, your team could already have completed the activity because you don’t need to talk to HR… you are HR!
The greatest advantage of being a speed-oriented organization is that if you are not, then your competitors will be. Having an organization that can outpace competitors at every turn is essential to success. Consider that common trope – more than half of businesses will fail. A fix for this potentially disastrous scenario is ensuring that a good idea is executed quickly, before the next organization has a chance to get there first, especially when going up against a sizable player who is too big to fail. This is often the case in new industries. The first company in the door may have a strong idea and vision, but if they cannot capitalize quickly, the next entrant will have the opportunity to move faster and dominate. In other words, your offense can never give the opposing defense a chance to recover; keep driving the field and don’t let them get off it.
A fast-paced organization also has the opportunity to learn more at a greater rate than its competitors. If your company can test multiple sales methods at the same time, at a faster pace than your closest competitor can, you will arrive at the correct solution much faster than them – it’s that simple. If business improvements and optimization can be achieved at a faster pace, then why not try. There is no time to waste wondering if a different method can help. Move fast. Move through as many trial iterations as you can in as little time possible and reap the benefits. It is not acceptable to waste time finding the optimal way to grow. Find the optimal way to grow fast!
However, speed can also kill your organization if it is executed poorly. A culture of speed and a high-paced organization needs to be fostered from the top down. If management talks a big game about organizational speed, but can’t effectively make timely decisions, then the effort is doomed from the start. There is also a difference between chaotic speed and well-directed speed. If things move quickly, but no one has faith in the direction set by management, then it does not matter how fast you get there. A calm CEO and management team that executes quickly goes a long way to ensuring that everyone else is comfortable with the pace and direction. Communication of intent will go a long way with employees and is vital in a high pace environment, otherwise people can be quickly left behind. The quarterback needs to communicate the play quickly and effectively or else there are going to be a lot of incomplete passes.
A large part of developing a fast-paced work environment is selecting the right talent for your organization. If a potential employee is predisposed to a lackadaisical pace of work then it is unlikely they adapt and be a strong fit with the organization. Finding candidates with the right fit can be a struggle, but it can be mitigated through pre-employment personality assessments and targeted interview questions. Building a team that meets the speed requirement is often easier than changing the habits of a slow-paced team. It is important that the right people are hired, not just that people are hired quickly, otherwise you are just squandering the integrity of your organization.
Moving forward quickly with a purpose under the right leadership and talent is essential for success in a fast-paced organization. Employing data driven decision-making and collecting data on your organizational efforts in the first place, should be a priority for moving fast. There is no point in moving quickly in the wrong direction. That is why it is essential to be able to test new initiatives quickly, as mentioned earlier, and move in the correct direction faster than your competitors. Communication of organizational purpose and data driven decisions is also essential. If your perfect team of fast paced individuals goes in a different direction than the CEO then chaos will ensue.
For your no-huddle offense to work, the quarterback needs to communicate a strong, correct play to a team of fast paced highly motivated individuals in order to keep the defense on their back foot. Startups are well placed to execute the no-huddle offense when compared the giants of tech, like Google and Amazon. If your organization does the right thing faster than your competitors you will win, it’s as simple as that.