Are you as frustrated as I am with the seeming inability to "get off the dime" with that e-commerce project? Do you see the frozen "deer in the digital headlights" reaction in people's faces when asked why it's taking so long? Time to market is critical. But large and even mid-size organizations continue to move slowly, despite the pressure of the Internet economy. Our long-term organizational health and, in some cases, our very survival depends on moving more quickly to anticipate and react to changing market conditions. Yet we continue to struggle with execution.
In analyzing the causes of both my frustration and that frozen panic reaction, I have come up with yes, another Osterfelt "top ten" list the top ten reasons why things take so long. Here they are, in reverse order.
10. We have difficulty assembling a team. It does indeed take time to assemble a team and make sure everyone knows what the end game is as well as how each team member will contribute, but we lose valuable time doing so.
9. We study them to death. We do RFPs, analyze the competitive landscape, compare feature/functionality of all available options, do pilots, benchmarks and prototypes. All of this activity takes time.
8. Lack of clarity of vision or direction. Not everyone understands the directive in the same way. What exactly are we trying to accomplish? Differences of opinion here can be a real drain on time. Even something as basic as whether the direction is to enhance the current product or system or create a new one can cause people to go in different directions. It takes valuable time to reconcile these situations.
7. They compete for scarce resources (people and money). One initiative is never the only thing going on. Therefore, prioritization which project gets what resources (both people and money) will always be an issue.
6. We get distracted. We start out driven to reach the goal, allocating our own personal time with unflagging certainty; but somewhere along the way, someone asks us to get involved in another decision, another initiative. Our personal drive toward the original goal is compromised. We fall behind on reaching that goal.
5. We change course midstream. We're clear on the vision and direction initially. Midstream the direction changes, maybe only slightly; but it's enough to get our team confused about where they're headed. We don't exert the needed leadership to ensure that these changes are incorporated and even embraced.
4. We try to boil the ocean. We try to do too much, too soon. We make unrealistic goals, losing focus on what is the most important.
3. We want so many risks mitigated that we'd be dead by the time it's done! We have a natural aversion to risk, but the new economy is a place and time where risk is a necessity. While we can't shoot from the hip without assessing and mitigating obvious risks, we simply are not going to be able to mitigate every risk. Time won't allow it.
2. We feel like we have to get everybody on board to make a change. We've flattened our organizations, and we've moved to a "process" orientation which necessitates getting buy-in. This takes time. Large organizations may even have people dedicated solely to getting buy-in from other departments or functions. This seems like a ridiculous waste of resources when compared to smaller organizations which are more nimble!
1. And the number one reason why things take so long: We don't think big enough in terms of partnering to get it done versus doing it ourselves. Who says we have to do everything ourselves? (Even if we've always done it that way.) When given a directive, we need to think about how we could get a partner to do it for us, even if it means transferring a non-core process to them. We fear, even abhor, the "o" word outsourcing yet we may be able to get to our goal more quickly by letting someone else provide that capability.
The clock is ticking. Uncertainty is rampant. Understanding the barriers to getting things done is the first step toward eliminating them. We somehow need to overcome our own fear and lack of focus. If we wonder why our companies are losing market share, it's in major part due to the time factor. We have to be focused and confident to provide swift, accurate execution on our priorities. Tumultuous times do not necessitate a frozen reaction. We need to bring the appropriate teams and resources to bear and continually fight against the time drains.
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