I was inspired to write this article whilst on-board a Virgin Blue jet to Fiji. I was trapped on a five-hour flight and had forgotten to bring a good book to occupy me. Even worse I was full of energy so I could not even pretend to nap in front of the energetic young crew So what was I to do? It was then that it struck me. My mind was racing as fast as the jet and I could not just sit and be still without some form of distraction. (I guess that self-awareness increases, as you get older). I realized that many of my colleagues suffer from the same affliction. So the question was: why do so many of us who work in the corporate world feel so rushed and feel the need to be doing something all the time and faster still? This culture is rampant in our society. It’s as if our whole society has caught a disease. A disease called ‘speed’. Some of us thrive on it. We are addicted to it. But has anyone stopped to question why we are doing everything faster in the name of customer service and increased profitability? Is that what the customer wants? And has speed translated into increased profits?
The fact is that there is no real need for speed. Customers definitely do not want speedy service. They want good service. Most advertising wrongly convinces customers that speed of service is the performance criteria by which they should choose a service provider. And so the expectation is set. And that has a domino effect, which accelerates through the business process highway and forces a culture of speed on the stakeholders in that process. But the question has to be asked: does it really matter to the customer whether speed of service is important to them? Is that more important to them than the right product or a thorough attendance? I have asked a number of business leaders this same question and they all have answered a resounding “definitely not”.
So why the need to rush? How did this culture of speed creep into our strategic thinking?
Some may argue that ‘speed’ is the key to capture greater market share and therefore greater profits. But has that really happened in your business? And more poignantly, has speed translated into better staff performance and hence better customer service? The truth is that if speed is the main thing that’s driving your profits then it will come at the expense of staff morale and ultimately good customer service. A profit strategy that is not sustainable because when staff become burnt-out they will give poor service. And when that happens you will lose repeat business.
There is also the philosophical argument as to whether the ‘profit objective’ is worth it if it compromises your health, your relationships and your happiness. That is, the ‘how much money is enough’ argument. The truth is that we are never motivated to focus on those meaningful aspects in life unless and until we have suffered a loss or encountered a major problem; such as poor health, broken marriage, or loss of friendships. The very things that gives meaning to our existence.
So how is the speed culture affecting your business? More importantly, how is speed affecting you personally? More on this in my next three journal entries.