Businesses today have found a new strategy for all seasons. Speed. Companies across the country are pushing their organizations to embrace speed as the solution to all problems. Will it work?

The answer seems to be yes. Yes, speed can improve profitability and improve market share. Yes, performance will improve if product development time is reduced, time to market is reduced, production is faster, collections are faster, information to the field and customer is faster.

If you think will happen by simply making everyone work faster, you’re in for some painful problems. That’s a big mistake and a common one in approaching speed as a new management technique. Most companies guilty of it end up alienating their already overworked employees. The correct approach is to change the way work is done by eliminating wasteful steps, organizing machinery more efficiently, encouraging individual action and catching mistakes earlier, or better, eliminating errors.

The solution is an atmosphere of independent creativity that solves problems while focusing on continuous improvement. When every employee is focused, the customer sees improvement and soon other performance indicators begin to reflect the change. Top management must carry the banner and communicate clearly understood values to all levels of the business. Most importantly, each manager must understand the time investment and how important their individual behavior can be to the success of this process.

Speed and a sense of urgency are habits that take constant reinforcement. Progress is made in increments, resulting from continuous improvement at all levels. When responsibility, standards, rewards, and clarity are high (and conformity is low), individuals will take the initiative and fix the problems. Speed then increases in all areas and “fast” will win.