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4 ways to make speed a habit and build ‘fast’ teams

Nikhil Rungta
8th Jun 2018
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Fast is the “in” word in the millennial world, and slow and steady will win the race no more. It is the fast and steady who will break barriers. Look around, and you will see that every technology, every equipment, and even businesses are moving faster than they did a decade ago.

Computing power or clock-speed was once measured in kilohertz, and with the dawn of personal computers, they arrived at megahertz. Today we are breaking the Gigahertz barrier. Our cars are faster, so our trains and motorcycles. The vehicles we have on the road today are more powerful than those professionals drove on race-tracks. It doesn’t end there –customer service is faster, the internet is faster, and so are our phones. With next-day delivery by popular ecommerce giants such as Amazon, shopping too has never been quicker.

Now, where does this leave you and your team? Moving fast has been a reality since the industrial revolution when production lines became popular. What has changed since then though, is that individual roles are no longer black and white. One has to wear many hats, and the challenge today is ‘to move fast in a dynamic work environment’.

However, when one is talking about speed, one also needs to realise that small teams working with big passion often achieve that speed as opposed to larger teams. Moreover, being small is the secret to teams that move fast – just like computers, they are smaller than their predecessors. So what is the formula here? How can a leader get a team to execute fast?

Shared goals shared conscience

What makes a winning football team or a basketball team? It’s the shared vision of what they must collectively do on the turf so they can walk out with the trophy. Because of this vision, their focus on the field/court is laser-like.

Can this be replicated with an office team? Absolutely. Get the team dynamics right. That is the first step a leader should accomplish. Before getting the numbers and KPIs in place, your team engine must be in perfect running order. Lay out the expectations and how each member can contribute concerning their core skills. This brings in the sense of ownership and accountability since the focus is on their unique skills rather than a comparison number game.

To get the shared conscience right, introduce a team-trait. Something that defines your team and gives it a unique flavour and character, while keeping it aligned with the larger organisational goal. It could be something as simple as a few minutes of meditation before starting the day. This activity can work wonders. Think of it as the engine oil in your vehicle. If there’s not enough of it, your engine will cease functioning properly.

Encourage creativity and new ideas

We love the status-quo and prefer stability over change. The idea that ‘if something is not broken, why fix it’ runs in our blood. This may work for a while, but remember, teams that have changed the world took more risks than others. Just because something is not broken, does not mean there is no scope for improvement.

This scope is what you must inspire your team to identify and empower them to achieve. People will sometimes have excellent ideas and occasionally stupid ones. But that is a good thing because either way, you encourage your team to flex their creative muscles.

Being open and inviting new ideas will empower your team members and build their trust in the team as well as themselves, and we all know self-confidence goes a long way.

Encourage development

Organisations and technology are continuing to evolve, so why should your team be any different? Invest in employee development, whether personal or professional. The underlying idea here is that a positive change can be an excellent opportunity for growth.

When you get a new phone, you experiment more with the phone, learn the hacks, and find ways to optimise the gadget to your lifestyle. It’s the same with employee development. When employees get new skills/training, they feel empowered to use these newly acquired hacks in their work. It is an ongoing process, but eventually, they will find ways to improve the quality of their work and quicker methods to complete it.

Now isn’t that precisely what moving fast is all about? A little bit of investment goes a long way and can generate ROI for a long time to come. Sometimes all it takes is one unconventional hack to turn a long and tiring process into a speedy and efficient one.

With great responsibility comes great authority

We’ve all heard the saying that with great power comes great responsibility. But when it comes to the workplace, the situation is instead the opposite. There is much responsibility, with authority to go with it.

It is vital to realise that employees who are empowered with authority often display greater engagement than those who are not empowered. In a report by Joseph Folkman, founder of Novations and Zenger Folkman, both development firms, he said that employees with high empowerment displayed an engagement quotient in the 79th percentile while those who felt a lack of empowerment displayed an engagement quotient of only 24 percentile.

It is true – having employees who feel greater empowerment and accountability will create a faster and efficient team.

An empowered team, however, will not follow conventional tactics. They will go for optimisation over standardisation which can prove to be trouble higher up the ladder or when it comes to collaborating with interdependent teams. But, to empower teams to move fast, businesses must be willing to face and overcome these impediments.

Empowering teams also means micro-management will have to go. Managers must employ an “eyes-on-hands-off” approach. The real challenge is to inspire innovation while stepping back. Handing over the reins can be a difficult step, but it has to be a conscious effort if you are to achieve momentum. Even pilots realise the autopilot does a better job. The goal then is to set a robust autopilot mode in your team.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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