Business Reinvention: Managing the Tension Between Fast and Right

When the two feel at do you map your course?

The world - including the world of work - is changed. Maybe forever. And we're all in a collective season of reinventing how we work.

For many of us, the pandemic has triggered an escalation of pressure and pace. And we're having to manage a series of tensions between the pull of old and new ways of working.

We're having to manage a series of tensions between the pull of old and new ways of working.

In a recent - and ongoing - client engagement, I've had to manage the tension between working "right" and working "fast." I was hired to do an organization design for a function. And there is absolutely a "right" way to do this. Process and methodology underpin any strong design. 

But this client needs it done fast. REALLY fast. The business commands this.

And my job is to push the boundaries of "fast" without losing touch with "right." I'm having to ask - at each point on this client journey - just how fast can I let this train go without running the risk of it falling off track?

I've learned a number of lessons along the way and I'd like to share a few today in the hopes that you can find a way to apply these to any tension you may be needing to balance. 

1. Manage the HECK out of expectations

If you're moving at a supersonic speed, then the best you can promise is a beta version of a big outcome. Much of my role has been to draw a line in the sand that separates the choices we can "rough out" (that will land in a beta version) from choices that require more data in service of protecting the company and its employees.

My instincts, experience, and integrity become essential here. For example, I've told this client I'm comfortable roughing out the critical skills we'll need, and supporting the hire of 1-2 essential leaders in his org. What I'm not comfortable doing in beta is building out a detailed org chart or designing compensation and incentives.

We've both had to push ourselves toward this middle ground - but so far it's serving us.

2. Parallel path whatever is possible.

Traditionally, I prefer to do a thorough Discovery (understand the organizational strategy, the business case for change, etc.) before we begin developing new structures, processes, etc. 

In this case, I had to challenge myself to identify what questions I absolutely needed answered upfront so I could speak the language of this business. From there, we began moving into Design while I was continuing to expand Discovery.

This was a new and challenging way to work. Having access along the way to internal resources who could answer "emergency" questions as they arose was a tremendous support - and something I'd require for future work of this shape.

3. Dial check-ins WAY up

Another key to success on this journey has been very frequent, brief check-ins with key stakeholders. Because I've been working and learning simultaneously, there is always a risk that I could be missing or misinterpreting something.

By checking in frequently (2 - 3 times per week for 15 minutes), I've been able to consistently confirm assumptions, review work-in-progress, and take any feedback well before anything became too fully baked.

It's an agile-style way of working, pushing all of us to up our game!

And there you have my learnings to date. I have no doubt there will be more to come! 

Related: Let's Talk Virtual Employee Experience