“If the rate of change inside an organization is less than
the rate of change outside, the end is in sight.”
~ Jack Welch

In a warp speed world, laggards lose because time frames are compressing―change that once took months and years now happens in days and hours. You need speed to succeed.

Below are answers to questions I was asked in a GEO webinar about how to Accelerate Actions.

Q1 – You emphasize “the need for speed to succeed.” Shouldn’t you be careful not to move too fast? 

Speed must be tempered by smart situational timing. Knowing when to act and when NOT to act is important. There are certainly times when you’re not ready to move fast.

Let’s take a real world example. Think about the Bin Laden raid. There was extraordinary patience in the months before the raid, because the information was incomplete and premature action could have had disastrous consequences. However, when it came time to act, Seal Team Six was ready and they moved fast. The ‘on the ground’ raid took only 38 minutes.

Q2 – You recommend “Creating Good Enough Plans.” Shouldn’t you create the best plan possible?

A contemporary of Shakespeare said, “Audacious ignorance hath done the job while timorous wisdom stands debating.” This axiom remains valid in today’s environment.

Create a ‘good enough’ plan and execute it now. Then, improve it as you move it.

Many people are not comfortable with this. They loathe acting until they are certain they haven’t overlooked anything. Like a cautious engineer, they are susceptible to the urge to get one more data point to know with certainty the slope of a curve.

In a warp speed world, there’s fallacy with this mentality. The world is not standing still. While you are spending time gathering more and more information to create an ever-better plan, the ‘facts’ on which you are basing your plan are becoming obsolete.

Bottom line: A good enough plan rapidly executed and continuously refined in real-time is far superior to a perfect plan long delayed.

Q3 – Why is your probability of success higher when you move quickly?

Your probability of success is higher for many reasons:

  • External competitors are outpaced
  • Internal opposition is pre-empted
  • Key assumptions don’t become obsolete
  • Fewer unanticipated events and unintended consequences occur
  • Shortfalls surface faster and can be corrected faster
  • Fast wins create a positive psychology
  • Desired results and benefits are accelerated
Accelerate Actions. Long Timelines Lead to Failure. – Source: Leland Russell | GeoGroup.net

Bottom line: There’s a compelling reason to move quickly: Laggards Lose.

Q4 – One of your Cardinal Rules for achieving speed is a “Parallel Approach”. What does that mean? 

There are two basic ways to operate: a Serial Approach — one step at a time in sequence, or a Parallel Approach — multiple steps simultaneously.

There are many examples of the power of a Parallel Approach.

Market Blitz” is the term used to describe the Parallel Approach that launched the Pokemon media franchise. It focused on the youth market—specifically, young boys between the ages of 6 and 12.

Suddenly the brand was everywhere: a widely-distributed movie; a cartoon show that aired 11 times each week on the Warner Brothers network; collectible trading cards; an ad blitz that included television, radio and print ads; myriad web sites offering interactive components like “Pokedex;” promotional tie-ins with major organizations, and, last but not least, the video games.

Another example is Boeing. It delivered the 777, one of the largest planes ever built, in half the time the process normally takes. Boeing’s Parallel Approach was called “concurrent engineering” — hundreds of engineers working together sharing designs in real-time using computer-aided three-dimensional interactive software.

The very first 777 flew on schedule. The following year it went into commercial service. This cycle time breakthrough was enabled by a Parallel Approach.

Q5 – What is the problem with a step-by-step Serial Approach?

There is a powerful argument against the step-by-step, serial approach. You strive to get each step right before you move to the next step. This not only slows you down because of the inevitable obstacles, but it also lowers your probability of success.

For example, in a ten-step process, if you project a 90% probability of success for each of the ten steps, your overall probability of success is only 35%.

(.9 x .9 x .9 x .9 x .9 x .9 x .9 x .9 x .9 x .9 = .35)

 Why a Parallel Approach preferable: No single point failures.

The benefits of a Parallel Approach are clear to anyone who has experienced the frustration of a string of Christmas tree lights wired in a serial circuit, which means electricity must pass through each bulb before moving to the next. If just one burns out, none of the rest light up.

However, when a string of Christmas tree lights is wired in parallel, electricity flows directly to each bulb. Even if one or more bulbs fail, you still have an overall positive result — most of the bulbs light up. The same benefit applies to parallel strategy execution. Single-point failures are not show-stoppers.

Bottom Line: Whether you’re building and launching a new product, implementing a new strategy, or driving organizational change, use a Parallel approach to accelerate action and increase your probability of success.

Q6 – How do you decide what parallel actions to take?

To have optimal impact, your parallel actions should focus sharply on impacting Leverage Points―the people, processes or infrastructure in your organization or market where you can have the greatest impact on the entire system with the least amount of resources.

The speed and overall system impact from a parallel approach is directly proportional to the:

  • Number of leverage points that are affected
  • Precision with which the Leverage Points are affected
  • Concurrency of the parallel actions

Q7 – Sometimes you’re stuck with a Serial Approach. What can you do?  

What you want is accelerated action. Here are three ways to accomplish that within a Serial Approach:

  • Eliminate bureaucratic bottlenecks
  • Identify hidden opportunities for process improvements
  • Simplify and/or eliminate steps using the 20/80 rule (20% of the action will produce 80% of the results).  

 Q8 – How do you ensure that parallel actions are aligned and avoid “silo” problems?

Alignment is essential when there are multiple goal-advancing activities occurring at the same time. Everyone needs to be on the same page, collaborating across boundaries in real-time.

Alignment occurs when everyone:

  • has a clear understanding of the Big Picture—the overall objectives and strategy—as well as their own tasks in achieving it;
  • makes a conscious commitment to achieving the overall objectives, as well as accomplishing their own individual tasks;
  • is continuously calibrating what they are doing with others because the environment is dynamic no plan survives its contact with reality.

Q9 – How fast do we need to move? 

The answer is simple. Faster than the rate of change in your environment. The former CEO of GE, Jack Welch, explains why: “If the rate of change inside an organization is less than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight.”

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