Management in Economy of Speed – Are Norms Obsolete?

Let’s think about speed. What does it mean for us? What is the opposite of speed? Is it slowness, indecisiveness, procrastination, or maybe something else? The problem is that in pursuit of speed we set it as a single metric. It becomes the solution to any one problem. “We got to speed up the clock speed” sounds good in the boardroom but does not help in every occasion.

When speaking of speed, there is a tendency of ignoring the fact that speed is a devil of multidimensional nature. Every time we put companies in different categories in relation to speed, we fall in the trap of normative thinking. This is because we tend to believe to understand an individual company without actually paying any attention to it.

Typical reasoning of thinking that certain companies are better at managing speed is just plain wrong. It causes lots of organizational waste while the laggards are competing in speed of adopting the best practices of the speedy ones. And we do like to believe what can be proved by research and analysis.

“Conceptual strategic management is the deadliest framework of our time.”

Let’s think of an example. If a company was a typist, by statistical analysis we could prove that the easiest way of reducing the number of typos is to just to type faster. This kind of reasoning would lead us to define an ideal speed of typing that everyone should be aiming at. A deviation from the ideal would be a sign of inadequacy. In reality, of course, the people who can type faster tend to be better in typing, and therefore make fewer typos. The aforementioned example is, however, pretty much how normative concepts are being created.

Conceptual Management Frameworks Stall Innovation

The science of management has always been based on building conceptual frameworks in order to help any single company to succeed better than the others. The problem of this thinking is similar to the law of large numbers, which is always true in general and false in singular. At the end of the day we have to stop running after these standards and norms, and focus on our own specific attributes and capabilities.

Seeing norms as ideal (what they are not), we consider any deviations from it as an error. This has the severe consequence of prioritizing systems over true excellence. This might sound like I am talking about anarchy – and you got that right. Jumping off a platform of normative thinking and, in average, well-serving frameworks sounds threatening and unnatural. Simultaneously it is the only way of making difference in the economy of speed.

“Seeing norms as ideal (what they are not), we consider any deviations from it as an error.”

Most of these frameworks fit badly to economy of speed and some of them are supremely adverse. Conceptual strategic management is the deadliest framework of our time. The consequence is overplanning, overanalyzing and overthinking of doing something instead of doing it. The deep analysis that goes with conceptual management frameworks is most likely resulting something conservative and linear rather than innovative. Oversized analysis fences us in the current state and leads in optimizing existing instead of building a new business. Only execution matters. A strategy filled with linearity does not represent change and therefore leaves us nothing to execute.

Surviving in the economy of speed is not based on stretching towards all the good things. The best companies are only avoiding good-looking bad things and doing what the others are not doing. Stop trying to speed up and be original.