In successfully executing on your business goals, speed matters.
- The quicker that you complete a task, the sooner you can get on to the next task.
- The quicker that you respond back to a customer, the more likely you are to win their trust and their business.
So, how can you speed up what gets done?
1. Get to the Point:Get started on things immediately. Don’t waste time even considering procrastinating. Once something is started, move on it. In conversations and work, get to the point cutting down on chit chat and get right to business. To facilitate getting to the point, ensure that you understand the nature of the problem or issue. I have often seen people procrastinate because a task appears to be difficult. Only when they had completed the task did they realize how quick and easy it was. So, skim through the report, the presentation, or the work assignment and then determine how long it will take to get done. Then, either get it done immediately or set up a block of time to get it done in one fell swoop. Finally, getting to the point creates a sense of urgency in all that you do. With this urgency come momentum and the expectation that you will work more quickly and more ruthlessly to get things done. As Machiavelli once said:
The wise man does at once what the fool does finally.
2. Keep Short Deadlines: Not everything is perfect in business. Nor does it need to be. It is often true that to complete a task or respond back to someone at a 90% correct level may take only a few minutes, whereas to respond back at a 98% – 100% correct level may take 5 days. Err on the side of the few minute answer. To get things done within the few minutes, create short deadlines; this forces your team to prioritize and focus on only the most important issues. Further, to assist in keeping short deadlines, reduce the task. For example, if you have a meeting, require that the meeting notes be completed by the end of the day and require that they be at most one page. This is a double win: the task is completed punctually and the notes focus only on the essential. Likewise, keep short deadlines on meetings and stick to those deadlines. Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke is known for walking out of meetings at the end time even in the middle of a discussion. By sticking to and respecting these short meeting times, it ensures that the next meeting will be more productive especially at the outset when many meetings often get bogged down and off track. It is good to remember the words of General George Patton:
Perfection is the enemy of the good. By this, I mean that a good plan executed with great vigor now is better than a perfect plan next week. Success is a very simple thing; and the determining characteristics are confidence, speed and audacity – none of which can ever be perfect, but they can be good.
3. Think Critical Path: Thinking of the critical path helps to speed all activities along. Critical path is a project management technique that looks at the time element for each required step to complete a goal. It then strives to shorten the time to accomplish a goal by performing the steps rapidly and in parallel, wherever possible. To execute rapidly requires that the employees and you as a leader realize what is on the critical path and focus to get those items done as quickly as possible even if some things need to be done out of turn or less efficiently. Two quick points:
A. In mastering critical path, it is necessary for management to avoid being the roadblocks as any delayed response or approval inevitably delays the whole project or task.
B. We each need to realize that our own individual effectiveness and priorities are subordinate to the overall business effectiveness and priorities. We may have to do a task more inefficiently or earlier in the process than we want in order to ensure that the overall goal is achieved as quickly as possible.
This blog is an excerpt from David Shedd’s recently published book, Build a Better B2B Business: Winning Leadership for Your Business-to-Business Company, now available on Amazon.com.