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LawsonGuru Blog

Thought-Provoking Commentary for the Lawson Software Community

Slowing Down to Speed Up


I read an interesting article recently in Harvard Business Review: http://hbr.org/2010/04/the-acceleration-trap/

In case you haven’t noticed, the world is spinning faster–at least it often seems that way. 

Our collective method of mitigating this hyper-kinetic frenzy is, of course, to work “better, faster, cheaper”. Which is akin to dousing a grease fire with water, I guess.  It’s a knee jerk reaction, and often ends up just making things that much worse. But that’s the way it seems to be, and well—as the adage goes—if you can’t beat ’em, well, at least do what they’re doing.

Of course, I’ve never been one to just blindly follow a trend; just call me a contrarian. My innate feeling has always been that “better, faster, cheaper” or just plain old “faster, faster, faster” as a mantra is polite way of saying "please do a lousy job by cutting corners".  Or perhaps the simpler "haste makes waste".

There have been numerous writings and studies about "crashing the project" , "throwing more bodies at it", etc. I believe it was Frederick Brooks who provided us with the brilliant  analogy that while one woman take 9 months to have a baby, you can’t engage a team of 9 woman to achieve the result in just one month.

The acceleration trap

From the HBR article,

Faced with intense market pressures, corporations often take on more than they can handle: They increase the number and speed of their activities, raise performance goals, shorten innovation cycles, and introduce new management technologies or organizational systems. For a while, they succeed brilliantly, but too often the CEO tries to make this furious pace the new normal…

We call this phenomenon the acceleration trap. It harms the company on many levels—over-accelerated firms fare worse than their peers on performance, efficiency, employee productivity, and retention, among other measures, our research shows. The problem is pervasive, especially in the current environment of 24/7 accessibility and cost cutting.

That’s the bad news. The good news is, it’s possible to escape the acceleration trap.

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One response to “Slowing Down to Speed Up

  1. Phil Simon July 6, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Great post, John. I’ll check out that article.

    Sounds great.

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