I see people optimize for speed, on the highway, in their projects, and often in their personal lives. I wonder if speed, quickness, is everything these people actually want.
On the highway, I’ve seen (and I bet you have, too) the person weave in and out of traffic, finding the “right” lane and creating little ripples of anger and frustration behind their car. Almost always, that person exits the highway one or two cars ahead of me. They’ve achieved their speed at times. However, that speed didn’t achieve that much more progress.
In projects, too many of my clients are focused on how fast they can release something, rather than if they are releasing the right thing, or if that thing will make their customers happy. Again, lots of speed, not so much progress.
I’m guilty of speeding through some of my exercise routine. When I speed through it, I don’t maintain my form, which is much more important than speed.
Sometimes, I do optimize for speed. Some non-fiction books are so challenging for me to read, I skim them and highlight the paragraphs I want to remember. Reading the book at normal speed tortures me. Instead, I optimize for speed. (I used to think I needed to read all the books I started. I no longer finish fiction books I can’t read and I skim the non-fiction books. That’s my current choice.)
Sometimes, I optimize for slowness. For example, I have a few “tests” for new clients. I don’t make them jump through hoops—I ask them several questions and see what happens as we discuss their concerns. I have discovered that many clients want to start “right away,” often on some specific action that won’t provide lasting value. By taking my time, I can help them achieve their strategic goals, not tactics that they might not even need.
I am slow to start projects with other people. (I try to finish my own projects fast.) When I work with other people, I often want to optimize for collaboration, not for speed. I already know how to collaborate with myself. I don’t know how other people like to work.
Sometimes, optimizing for speed is the right decision. Sometimes, optimizing for “slowness” creates the right environment in which we can then optimize for speed later. As with most important questions, there is no One Right Answer to this question. It depends on how much adaptability we need.
That is the question this week: When should you optimize for speed?