There’s a famous line from the movie The Princess Bride that could easily refer to the way so many of us define what it means to be agile leaders and managers:
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
When I hear the word “agility,” my first thought is always: Speed. I need to constantly be moving fast, staying nimble in the face of continual changes and complexities. It’s as if the old playground game of “Think Fast!” has become the daily battle cry, and I have to not only stay ahead of the pace but also be ready to shift on a dime when the unexpected comes up.
But I’ve also come to realize there’s a real cost to this kind of thinking, particularly when it comes to my role in developing strategy. How can I be effectively agile in my thinking and decision making if I haven’t taken the time to process what’s really going on around me and what it will take to get where I need to go?
We’ve become conditioned to believe that agility always equals speed, that slowness in management is always a bad thing, and that the “left brain” concepts of step-by-step planning and deliberateness are somehow no longer really necessary in a fluid, uncertain world, one in which novelty and edginess seem to rule the day.
After all, what’s cool about critical analysis?
When it comes to agility, being fast is only part of the equation. Speed and nimbleness may be “sexy,” but they don’t replace the basics, what we know to be true about good management. An either/or approach to thinking — this idea that if you have enough speed, it cancels out the need for deliberate planning and other management essentials — will fail every time. If anything, greater levels of speed demand higher levels of managerial competence in all areas.
In other words, to be successful at going fast, you have to be successful at being slow, too.
This is a paradox managers have always had to deal with to some degree, but the tension has never been greater than today. We’ve become accustomed to moving rapidly in many different directions at once. This year we need to resolve to make the time to get more deliberate, to go slow, too.
To increase your agility:
- Banish “either/or” thinking: Swift and deliberate, open minded and decisive, consistent and adaptable – agility requires embracing an “and” mentality.
- Get back to basics: Good management never goes out of style. Especially in a complex, challenging environment, the basics not only have to be mastered, they need to be second nature.
- Use Whole Brain® Thinking: Regardless of what seems “cool” or where your thinking preferences lie, remember that all thinking styles are essential to getting the best results. If you want creativity and collaboration to flourish and succeed, you have to have a clear understanding of the facts and an effective process in place to get you there. Ultimately, it’s about finding the right balance.
Are you missing the time to go slow? Is it affecting your results? Share with us how you’re dealing with the managerial paradox of going faster while become more deliberate in your thinking.