When Fast Is Not Fast Enough

Apr 4 2014, 12:25pm CDT | by

When Fast Is Not Fast Enough
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

“Slow down!” Does this sound familiar?

If the passenger is your significant other, you have a few choices at this point. You can debate (once more) the validity of that request either by pointing to the speedometer, recounting your life-long accident-free track record, expressing out how late you are, or any number of arguments. Or, you do what I do after 25 years of marriage: You slow down with a sigh.

Translate this experience to the corporate world and you discover a significant insight. Speed feels very different to the driver, than to the passenger. The implications of this simple truth shouldn’t be underestimated, because we’re living in a world where the speed is increasing.

In a car, it’s usually okay to slow down (and often it’s in the best interest of your marriage). But in the business world, slowing down can be much more dangerous than hitting the throttle. The question often asked is, “How do we get our passengers (or employees) to embrace change?” This is the wrong question.

Helping your employees get a sense of control will in turn make all the difference in how fast you can go. Try asking another question: “How can we get more drivers urgent around the opportunities facing the organization?”

Some people choose the passenger seat. It might be their habit, their nature, or a conditioned response, but either way, they will complain about speeding. But most organizations (particularly large ones) have hundreds, if not thousands of people who’ve been placed in the passenger seat, perfectly willing and able to help you move faster. But you must first provide the right conditions for that to happen. If agility and speed are your primary concerns, then finding ways to put as many people as feasibly possible behind a wheel is a simple, yet powerful strategy. In his new book, Accelerate, Dr. John Kotter outlines what it takes to get from a few drivers, to many, many drivers in your organization. And believe me, I’ve seen that this makes all the difference.


At Kotter International, Holger Rathgeber helps leaders accelerate strategy implementation in their organizations. He is also co-author of Our Iceberg Is Melting. Follow Kotter International at @KotterIntl, on Facebook or LinkedIn. Sign up for articles and leadership insights from Kotter International.


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