In this age of quickly changing technology, it’s no longer just the big eating the little. Now, in the land of the quick and the dead, the fast eat the slow.
Speed to market is critical.
Remember learning in school that business was all about land, labor and capital? Forget it. The new elements for business success are technology, marketing and speed. Here are three qualifying questions to ask of yourself or your company:
- Do you have a new technology that gives you a competitive edge for a window of time?
- Do you know how to market it?
- Can you get it to market fast – before someone else meets the consumer need you’re filling?
Let's look at the third element of speed and how it relates to teams:
In most top-down hierarchies, in order to get something accomplished, a project must go "up the pyramid" for approval at each major stage.
As the project goes up through the layers of management for approval, each layer of management feels compelled to add its mandates and put its fingerprints somewhere. And as each change is mandated, the work comes back down for revisions before it can proceed to the next level.
Sometimes the piece being reviewed and approved is improved, but more often it’s compromised by the "meddling and diddling" that occurs at each level. The higher you are on the pyramid, the further you are from the realities of the front lines. So your edits/changes are not necessarily improvements.
Front-line decision makers who deal with the suppliers and deliver the services to clients on a daily basis are often better informed than their CEO about such areas as the effects that disruptive technologies like the Internet and new software solutions can have on customer service.
The actual architects of the project are often demoralized by the changes made to their work as it scales the pyramid. And projects are often slowed to the speed of a glacier!
The supervisors and the supervisors' supervisor are not usually at their desks waiting to review and approve. They're often unavailable at the time they're needed. So the project languishes. Pages fly off the calendar and the competition might win the game because of faster speed to market.
Self-directed teams are faster. Period.
These teams, working in a full-feedback environment, are able to draw on the seasoned experience of others in the organization for consulting and quality control, remain accountable for their own work and deliver the work on schedule.
Here's a little joke on this subject, sent to me by a friend: It's called: The Plan.
In the beginning was the plan.
And then came the assumptions.
And the assumptions were without form,
and the plan was completely without substance.
Darkness was on the face of the workers
and they spoke to their supervisor, saying:
"It is a crock of dung and it stinks."
The supervisors went to their section managers and said: "It is full of dung and none may abide the odor thereof."
The section managers went to their managers and said to them: "It is a container of excrement and it is very strong, such that none here may abide by it."
The managers went to their general managers and said to them: "It contains that which aids plants in growth and is very strong."
The general manager went to the vice president and said to him: "This powerful new plan will actively promote the growth and efficiency of the department, and this area in particular."
The president looked upon the plan and saw that it was good.
And it became policy.