What, exactly, is the Speed of Business?
I once heard a marketing tagline that said: “moving at the speed of business.”

I thought: “What is the meaning of this?” If the speed of technology is blisteringly fast and the speed of government is glacial, what exactly is the speed of business?

It is an intriguing question. Particularly after this last couple of months in which we at Web Samurai for Hire have been working with civic leaders, municipal governments, and chambers of commerce that are all ‘decision by committee’. Needless to say, this speed is not terribly brisk.

It is possible for small start-ups to be quick and nimble. Fewer people mean fewer decision makers which results in quicker decisions. It is understood to be a strong attribute to fledgling businesses. As businesses grow and more management tiers are added the process becomes more cumbersome. All too often the midsize corp. can flounder because of this, where there are too many skippers and not enough deck hands which often leads to a bloated payroll for management. Nothing can kill productivity faster than this top heaviness. In large organizations, as in government, whenever you must make decisions by committee you will invariably slow down the speed of business.

But what happens when there are market forces at work that are moving quite quickly. A good example right now is the movement for structural reform in the criminal justice system. Or we might look at the public interest in making behemoth tech companies more accountable for data privacy. But how can an effective, sweeping, positive change be enacted if the meat grinder of bureaucracy turns so slowly? There must be a balance somewhere between “move fast, break things” and the glacial pace of those afraid of losing the status quo.

When industry has adopted best practice guidelines they are arrived at through years of trial-and-error experience and so it is very hard to come in and try to change those guidelines. Even though an outside observer might come in with fresh eyes and perceive redundancies or inefficiencies, they might miss that these inefficiencies are built-in to slow the process and protect line workers, or those redundancies are there to guard against releasing a mistake somewhere. If the long-standing expert is closed to the fresh suggestions of the knowledgeable observer and the knowledgeable observer is blind to the legacy process of the long-standing expert, then no balance can be reached. Somehow there must be a freedom and willingness to always be improving. To listen, hear, and understand new ideas. Not just make decisions based on “that’s how we’ve always done it.” 

This harkens back to a common refrain for Web Samurai for Hire of being able to question yourself to not get complacent.

Once you have best practice guidelines it is ok to continue to revise and revisit them. Small businesses must be willing to try new things and even abandon core beliefs. Maybe your business is not a bakery catering service, but a traveling cupcakes and cocktails truck. Businesses of all sizes are required to pivot for all sorts of reasons. Is your business set up to move and maneuver quickly or are you the Titanic, destined to hit the iceberg every single time?

It is certain that there is no single answer to the question: what is the speed of business? The speed of business is not a constant but a variable, and it is clear that it is a variable that must be solved-for regularly in the effort to grow any business in a sustainable way.