Going Nowhere Fast — Discussing Organizational Speed with Intention


Faster. How do we go faster? It's the most frequent request I get from organizations. But it's not always first-to-market that wins today. It's consistency. You must be able to sustain quick, iterative, and insights-responsive releases. First-to-market can be—and is often—beaten by fast-follow accompanied by consistent, rapid iterations.

Unfortunately, many organizations want to go faster without questioning in which direction they're headed. What matter if you get there faster if it's the wrong destination?

Speed is a scalar quantity, an absolute value. It is a function of skill and capability. To increase speed, invest in talent development to build your organization's capabilities. This is how fast your organization could run. But it lacks direction. Does the organization know to where it is running?

Velocity is speed with direction. It is a function of execution and helps determine your ability to deliver. Too many agile practitioners make it their sole focal point. How much capacity you can deliver in a sprint can become an unhealthy obsession, and can be too easily mistaken for agile success. Does the organization know for what purpose it is running so quickly?

Momentum adds mass to velocity. It is a function of purpose and intention. It is customer-centric and value-creation oriented. When your people are aligned and you throw the weight of your entire organization towards an effort, tremendous things can be accomplished. But if you aren't creating value and impact, is your organization truly "agile?"

Acceleration should come last. It is the rate of change of velocity with respect to time. It is a force multiplier. But you must be intentional on what force you are trying to multiply. Like velocity, too many agile conversations tend to focus around acceleration. Acceleration is a function of efficiency. Would it make sense to be more efficient at doing the wrong projects? More efficient at disregarding customer insights? More efficient at continuing bad habits?

When your organization talks about "going faster," what does it really mean?


Not knowing when to employ speed, velocity, momentum, or acceleration at the right times is why a company like GoPro might struggle (and fail) at entering a new product category. It's how a company like DJI can be positioned to cannibalize GoPro's own core product category. It would also explain GoPro's critical need to pivot.

Following a new product release like the Osmo Pocket, DJI is obsessive about getting customer feedback and releasing firmware updates on what seems an almost weekly basis. What's more, that customer feedback process is a dialogue, with DJI being very diligent about responding and being transparent with their responses. Engaging key influencers turns them into customer advocates and brand ambassadors, and it scales DJI's outreach. Within three months as a new product line, the Osmo Pocket had addressed almost every major complaint its loyal customers had from its initial release. In the process, DJI has created a new cross-over product niche that is poised for growth.

I should note that I am a happy customer of both GoPro and DJI, recruiting their products for specific use cases in which they excel. This tension of two market leaders has resulted in a boon for consumers as they consistently challenge each other to innovate and create solutions that deliver value for their customers. I am hopeful that both companies will continue to grow and challenge each other for years to come. Which company will do that most gracefully will be the one that does it "faster."