What can a cheetah teach your organization about applying speed to an opportunity?
Design for speed
Start with the basic design of your operations. A cheetah is designed for speed from the tip of its head to the pads of each paw to the length of its tail. Everything about a cheetah is designed to support takeoff and acceleration. Is your operation designed for speed? If it was originally, have decisions over time made it more capable of increasing velocity or less? If speed – the ability to move processes, production and fulfillment along at increasing rates – is essential to your value proposition and competitive strength, then understanding whether you’re actually designed for speed is the place to start.
Business decisions made to solve a localized problem without looking up or down stream can have a very negative effect on speed, causing bottlenecks from small to large. If this is happening in your organization, find out if some simple adjustments can easily break through and get your performance chain flowing again as originally designed. If a quick fix won’t do it, you may need to go back to the drawing board to address a broader solution.
Overuse of speed
Have you ever been inside an organization that suffers from excessive exception handling? At Aveus, we have seen them in the high double digits – 40 plus percent. That’s not really ‘exception’ – the exception has become the routine. Often those exceptions are created by fast but not precise operations. The precision problems in these cases are often caused because units of production are valued over quality or accuracy.
I once worked in a media company with a beautiful, top of the line, state-of-the-art production facility. And we were fast! We used to say that we could produce 700,000 of one standard product every day, but if you asked us to produce 400,000 of one product and 2 others at 50,000, the challenge would bring us to our knees. Or if you needed to insert a non-standard item into the core product, we would speed through production and then end up with hundreds of employees hand inserting the extra item. Our beautiful, fancy, fast equipment was not designed for variations.
Like a young cheetah overfull of energy, some operations race ahead, and then, tired or overworked, they have to stop to cool down. If your organization is spending a lot of time on rework or adjustments, chances are that you have not calibrated your speed to the real level or type of demand you are experiencing. And, stating the obvious, continuing to push for more speed only makes performance worse.
Underuse of speed
Is it even worth commenting on going too slow? Surely everyone knows you can go too slow but the pressure is to go fast.
You see slowdowns happening in a performance chain that has become disconnected. As one example, units of operation are penalized for too much inventory at the end of a quarter, so what do they do?
S-l-o-w w-a-y d-o-w-n.
One example we encountered (and I doubt they are unique) traded speed for labor cost. The call center operations, tasked with saving money, calculated the lost customer impact of increasing wait times. They somehow decided that customers would tolerate wait times of up to 20 minutes! Would you wait 20 minutes just to have the phone answered to initiate a service call (that you would later be charged for) while you were already incurring down time from whatever the problem was? No, neither would their customers.
Again, why do these things happen? Disconnected actions or decisions are undertaken to solve a localized problem, goal or requirement. Key functions inside the organization have little or no understanding of customer requirements. Actions by separated units or functions along the performance chain create impacts they cannot see and for which they are not accountable.
In the end, when the problem reaches the customer, which it invariably does, the cost is measurable in customers and revenue lost.
Speed as your friend
Now that we’ve looked at the potential downsides of poorly calibrated or designed speed, let’s talk about the more fun upside: speed as your friend.
Speed is the cheetah’s strength. It gives them a unique position in the animal kingdom.
Speed – increasing the velocity of your core business processes – can do the same for your organization and drive better performance. It can distinguish your organization from others but it must be well balanced across the performance chain.
Capturing the benefits of speed means first designing for speed. It means making daily operating decisions about how much and where speed is important by looking across functions as well as within them. And, it means letting customer value requirements drive your speed execution decisions.
Pragmatic optimist with over 20 years of leading meaningful change. Sees every performance chain through lenses of speed, predictability, flexibility and leverage. Gets excited when smart decisions align with what customers value and generate stronger business performance. More about Chris.
"ROAR does an excellent job of making complex business models easy to understand and accessible. Through the skillful use of metaphors, Mahai breathes life into business concepts that tend to be very dry. I would recommend ROAR for any organization looking for innovative ways to engage in understanding and implementing best business practices." - John Foley, author of "Balanced Brand"