Go SLOWER to Grow Faster

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Imagine you’re driving down the highway when, all of a sudden, some guy speeds past you, swerving in and out of traffic, and continues on until you lose sight of him. You think to yourself, “What a jerk!” You and the other motorists around you go back to driving safely, then a few miles down the road, you see the guy’s car pulled over by a highway patrol officer. Ahh, what a gratifying feeling!

No matter how fast he negotiates his encounter with the officer, odds are you and the other drivers are going to get to wherever you’re going long before he does.

This is an example of going slower to go faster.

The concept of going slower to go faster has all sorts of applications, from martial arts to taking your time when getting out of sticky situations, but business isn’t typically where you expect to see this concept applied. In fact, most of us probably associate business with going faster and faster, either as we attempt to meet new goals, beat a competitor, or keep up with the latest technology breakthrough.

However, a relatively recent study found that businesses that slowed down to go faster delivered significantly higher sales and operating results than their “go-go-go” counterparts. The study highlighted the fact that many businesses mistake operational speed for strategic speed and that those who slowed down at key moments to ensure they were still on track outperformed those who didn’t.

Go SLOWER to Grow Faster

In working with our clients, we encourage taking it slow by adopting a thoughtful and systematic approach to business. One of the ways we help them to do this is by introducing a simple framework that is represented by the acronym “SLOWER.”

Though we most frequently apply this framework to fundraising and marketing activities, we’re finding that it applies equally well to all aspects of nonprofit business.

S: Schedule – Being thoughtful about your work requires observing what you’re doing, yet too often we have little to no visibility of what’s planned beyond the next few weeks. Establish a shared calendaring solution that promotes discovery of opportunities to help you work smarter.

L: Level-Set Expectations – A common side effect of the “go-go-go” approach is committing to doing more than is realistic and delivering a lower quality than you’re capable of. Setting accurate expectations about both quantity and quality will allow you to focus on delivering results in a reasonable time frame, rather than rushing to simply get deliverables out the door, regardless of quality.

O: Organize and Optimize – Having a well-thought-out and organized plan for how you will accomplish an activity—be it an appeal, an event, or a program deliverable—is the cornerstone of any strategic effort. And improving incrementally from one effort to the next, building on what you learn each time, is the secret to growth.

W: Work-Back Schedule – Unless you have formal project management experience, this may be a foreign concept, but it holds the key to living up to the expectations you set and delivering projects on time. With a work-back schedule, you schedule your work by beginning with the end product and working backward in your schedule until you arrive at the start.

E: Execution – The execution phase is where you perform the actual work. Unfortunately, this is where most people start the process, without taking the critical early steps to plan. Do yourself a favor. Get organized, create a feasible plan, work the plan, and then consider how well you did.

R: Record and Repeat – It’s important to capture any learning opportunities and changes in strategy (and why a change was made) and then begin logging the results throughout your effort, rather than waiting until it’s complete. Doing so will yield more accurate information to inform your analysis and future efforts.

Finally, repeat this process for each effort.

By using this framework to go SLOWER, you’ll not only be well organized and present quality work on time, you’ll also amass knowledge to help you make better decisions, make fewer mistakes, and grow your business faster than ever before.

Over the next few weeks I will publish a series of posts that go into further detail about each of these steps.

Here are the links to the posts in The SLOWER Framework series:


Image Credit: smlp.co.uk (with changes)