A long time ago, during embarkation day, we were running late loading supplies for our next cruise ship journey. It was raining heavily, and the two human chains responsible for loading were moving too slow to complete the effort before the ship's departure. Hastily, we decided to open another porthole, utilized two wooden planks as a bridge to the pier, and started a third human chain to accelerate the loading process. I was standing on the makeshift bridge high above the water passing beverage cases on, when suddenly the ship moved slightly. I fell — with a case of Heineken in hand — into the harbor below. Disoriented, I sank fast in the murky water, but thanks to the fast actions of some crew members, I was pulled to safety before the vessel could squeeze me into the docks.
While many factors come into play to cause an accident, "rushing" can be a main contributor, leading to bad outcomes or unintended consequences. As leaders, we have a greater responsibility to create a balanced culture that avoids the pitfalls of hastening and rushing. Below, I've outlined a couple of key themes for your consideration:
Speedy Decision Making: Most large organizations struggle with speedy decision making. Death by "a thousand governance committees" can sometimes grind a project or effort to a crawl. It can result in frustration, lack of accountability, and even hesitance to drive change. However, the opposite can sometimes result in more dire consequences. Moving too quickly may prevent consideration of alternative scenarios, adequate testing of a technology fix, or a thorough analysis of all the different implications or consequences. The best organizations achieve the right balance by creating a clear and concise decision-making framework, allowing adequate time for decision making, avoiding duplication and unnecessary governance, as well as implementing a consistent and repeatable process to enable risk-based and strategic decision-making.
Achieving Outcomes: We all are trained to deliver results, accomplish deliverables, and achieve outcomes. Measurement processes, key performance indicators and various forms of dashboards are designed to keep us on track to complete key objectives and "get the job done." Delivering results is non-negotiable but being too outcome-focused can create a culture that values the "what" more than the "how." A "what" culture is ripe with rushing, characterized by continuous stress, toxicity, and fear of failure. Over the years, I have observed leaders who emphasized the "how" by truly caring about their teams, creating an inclusive culture, and establishing an operating model that balanced workload with wellness. In the long-term, this created increased employee engagement, decreased turnover, and elevated productivity, which led to superior outcomes.
Unintended Impressions: Growing up with dyslexia, I have always paid extra attention to written communications. I still re-read my emails several times before I hit the send button to make sure I avoid errors. I found that when I rush, I make mistakes. While many would consider spelling errors in an email as not a big deal, it may create an impression of not paying attention to details, not being focused, or an inability to clearly communicate. Whether these assessments are accurate, or fair is not the point; actions have consequences, and a potential consequence is that others will reach certain conclusions based on our actions. Slowing down can help tremendously. It gives us time to reset, think, check, and most importantly evaluate how what we say or write will be interpreted by the recipient.
Avoiding Conflict: The other behavior I have observed over the years is rushing to get something done to avoid conflict or a difficult conversation. The fear of failure or disappointing someone is a strong motivator; it can make us push something over the finish line, just to show the proverbial checkmark in the box. Don't get me wrong, it is critically important to bring efforts to completion. However, we need to watch for accuracy and test whether enough conversation and analysis occurred to vet the results. For example, I have often seen issues fail validation due to shortcuts made during the original remediation process.
It is important to note that not all rushing is bad. We have an inherent desire to get things accomplished. We feel good when we complete a difficult task and sometimes, we need to push — in fact, rush — to avoid procrastination. Afterall, the crew rushing to pull me out of the water saved my life all those years ago. To limit the potential risks of rushing, leaders need to enable speedy — but thoughtful — decision making frameworks; create an outcome culture anchored in the "how;" slow down to avoid united impressions; and discourage a "get-it-done-at-all-cost" culture only to avoid conflict. A quote by author Rasheed Ogunlaru comes to mind: “While you'll feel compelled to charge forward it's often a gentle step back that will reveal to you where you are and what you truly seek.”