When to Slow Down to Speed Up

decision-making identifying options strategic planning
People putting together a process

By Julie Springer

March 31, 2022

As a project manager, your motto is “get it done” and you want to take action. You have pressure to meet deadlines and this project should have been started yesterday. The problem is that moving faster and working harder doesn’t work when there is something important off-track within the project. We run into this all the time.

Time for a Pause

Here is a real example. A small company has been investing for a year in modernizing the software platform that runs their business. The cost far exceeds what they expected to spend and they are at a critical stage - half of the system has been modernized and they are about to launch Phase 2. If they stop now, they won’t have what they need to operate successfully in the future, but the high spend rate and slow progress has created major risk and stress.

This is the perfect moment to apply the wisdom that “Slowing down is sometimes the best way to speed up.” When the data is not good (in this case, too much money spent for not enough results), you must do something different to get different results.

A New Perspective

Changing actions requires a change in perspective. You can’t stop to see what is possible when you are charging ahead at full speed. An experienced coach can help you to step back and see new possibilities. Yes, this requires a pause, but when the train gets moving again, it will be going faster, in the right direction.

In this example, two big issues need to be sorted out. First, it isn’t clear whether the automation that is being built can support the operational workflow.

  • Can the system do what it was built to do?
  • How big is the gap between what we have and what we need?
  • Where is more automation needed and where should we make process changes?

Second, there is a gap in project leadership. The original vision for the project isn’t enough to support Phase 2. Some key people are no longer in the organization, creating big holes that haven’t been filled. Everyone is doing their best to keep things moving and get the work done, but no one has time for planning or process improvement.

  • How might we set the vision for Phase 2?
  • What planning process do we need at the project and team level?
  • How can we balance fixes with new feature development?
  • Who can step into the product manager and product owner roles?

Getting Back on Track

These are big challenges that don’t have a quick fix. Fortunately, the leaders of this company were wise enough to stop charging ahead at full speed and invest time to:

  1. Discover the problems to solve
  2. Identify and analyze solution options
  3. Develop a strategy and decide what to do
  4. Start making incremental changes
  5. Regularly inspect and adapt for continuous improvement

Through a series of collaborative working sessions, we have started to find the answers and get things back on track. We call this approach Outcome-Driven Project Management. Download our guide, “How to Use Discovery to Focus Your Agile Teams on Solving the Right Problems” to learn more.

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