Caesar Augustus is said to have first adopted the motto: Festina Lente. Make haste, slowly. He had gold coins printed with a crab and a butterfly to symbolize the idea. Over the centuries, many other images have been created to remind us of the adage, such as a hare in a snail shell, and a dolphin entwined around an anchor. This simple phrase, “go slow to go fast,” is a powerful one, and it remains with us today.
Why does the idea of going slow to go fast still resonate – particularly in business, at a time when companies face pressure to move faster than ever before?
We’ve worked with hundreds of leaders from organizations across dozens of industries, all of whom are working hard to help their companies to go fast. One of their most common insights is that you must often take the time to “go slow.” Specifically, the most successful change leaders make time to pause, clarify direction and engage people in the journey before making big moves, both at the outset of major projects and at key milestones along the way.
This ensures that teams know where they’re headed, and that they can shape the plan forward. As a result of taking this time, individuals become more committed to the journey, which results in faster progress, better results and a lot less “noise” in the system when the team faces uncertainty or setbacks.
Here are some of the ways great change leaders “slow down to go fast”:
1) Ask people what they think and listen to their response. You might uncover something you didn’t know before and at the very least, you will start generating involvement and accountability early on.
2) Make space for dialogue and creativity. Give decision-makers (and others) the opportunity to discuss, debate, and create a vision for the future.
3) Commit to regular “pauses”. Give people the opportunity to reflect – on what’s working, what’s not working and how to work around any barriers to progress.
At Notion Consulting, we practice what we preach. Recently, we held our bi-annual summit, where we paused to discuss progress and challenges in our business, explore possibilities for our personal and shared future, and refine the vision and roadmap for our company. The result was powerful. Our vision got crisper, our roadmap got more detailed and the energy and momentum of the team felt stronger than ever.
My partner Diana Vienne echoed many participants feelings about the event: “Taking the time to pause, reflect and have fun is critical to moving faster together. The off-site gave us a much needed opportunity to come together to celebrate our wins, examine our challenges, set some goals, and plan for our Company’s future success. After the summit, we returned to our work with a renewed sense of energy and commitment, which is already helping us move faster.”
So the next time someone on your team suggests that you slow down, take stock and re-evaluate, resist the urge to press on blindly. Let some of your deadlines shift, if necessary. Carve out the time to reset and regroup. Remember the crab and the butterfly – and think about how, with a little bit of crawling, your team will ultimately be able to fly.