Monday, February 17, 2014

Slow is Smooth and Smooth is Fast

First, I apologize, I will not post about Cub Scouts next week, but I just have to be the proud papa for a moment:

Maben is a Tiger Cub and he won the Pinewood Derby for not just for his Den, but had the fastest track time in the Pack.
Here he is with his trophy:
 His Car:

And us working on his car:

If you want more details about the cars the family made for the pinewood derby (everyone but I had a car), go to my wife's blog.

Before you think that this isn't a leadership lesson, I did teach my son something while working on the car:

Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast

We researched how to build a winning car (there are plenty of websites and books). Then we designed the car based on the research. We spent the time to layout where the weights would be, and how to make the axles smoother and the wheels encounter less friction. Then we executed the plan, taking the time to ensure each step was performed accurately. In the end, the car was one of the cleanest, smoothest cars in the race. People couldn't tell where the weight was, or how the wheels were tuned. It was a thing of beauty. 

This was a lesson I learned during my days in the Army. You did things Slow and methodical (according to the Conceived plan) so that you didn't make a mistake, hence Smooth. And because we were not making mistakes, we didn't have to fix anything, hence Smooth is Fast. Perhaps you've heard it's antithesis:

We don't have time to do it right, but we have time to redo it.

People today are so quick to "just get it done,"  that they do it with lots of mistakes. Then they spend a significant amount of time fixing the mistakes. In fact, they may spend significantly more time fixing the mistakes then if they did it right the first time.

Leaders have a tendency to jump right into the "actual work" and worry about planning as he or she goes along. That is a mistake. Goals and plans need to be Conceived (flushed out to the point of having a life of it's own). In some cases, plans can take almost as long to build / flush out as the actual activities that need to be done. 

After the plan is Conceived, you need to Communicate it (and that means ensuring that the plan is understood) to you team, them take Command (have metrics, and ensure progress is being made with minimal mistakes) and them Complete (ensure the steps are complete, compile lessons learned, and recognize major contributors).

When the stages are rushed, then the plan isn't fully flushed out. The team doesn't understand the requirements, the metrics, or the end goal. The work is performed, but not performed correctly. The end state often ends up looking very different from the perceived goals, and the goals are either abandoned or significant work / cost is invested to fix it. 

In the long run: Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast means better projects with less cost. The next time you are going to jump in, slow down. 

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