Speed. Arguably one of the most important attributes in business today.

The speed of adaptation, communication and execution are all vital components in businesses looking to generate growth, navigate uncertainty or gain a competitive edge.

Businesses that are slower to operate are at higher risk of being left behind by their more aggressive and dynamic peers, who are able to outperform in key areas, whilst remaining in step with the rapid pace of change.

Whether it’s delivering innovation, responding to an external event or managing internal operations, the speed in which a business is able to function is key.

So, what can organisations do to generate speed and boost productivity, to improve their chances of success?

Instil foundational principles for the business.

In order for a business to increase the pace of operation, its constituent parts must be facing in the same direction.

Having a clear vision, purpose and values set out by the leadership team, will help provide the foundational principles for colleagues to refer back to when making key decisions that have an impact on the business.

Leaders should aim to build a culture that empowers colleagues to work freely within the guardrails of these core principles, as this will ensure the business remains agile and quick to respond in times of uncertainty or change.

Remove unnecessary layers.

As businesses expand, invariably so do their organisational structures. This is necessary in order to scale, however over time businesses can become too layered with middle management positions, overseeing a narrow span of control.

“The closer a P&L is to the customer, the faster a business is able to operate.”

Removing any unnecessary layers can help organisations speed up the pace of operation, improve the flow of communication and create fewer levels of separation from the customer.

Delayering also increases accountability and provides colleagues with the autonomy and flexibility to manage key aspects of their work, without overbearing and unproductive micromanagement.

Streamline process.

Processes are vital in ensuring that work packages are handled in a repeatable fashion with clear ownership & outcome, however can easily become outdated or too complex.

This can result in a lack of ownership and execution as processes are not correctly followed creating indecision, duplication and a dilution of productivity in the organisation.

This can sometimes occur in businesses who practice continual improvement. History has taught management that adding process will remove the variability of outcome and help ‘catch every eventuality’. However, over time this can impact efficiency as the additional effort required may outweigh the impact of risk being mitigated.

Businesses should regularly review their processes to ensure adherence, customer relevancy and efficiency, removing any that do not provide additional value.

Tackle toxicity. 

Toxicity significantly impacts speed. It can stifle productivity and cause organisational inertia.

It can manifest itself as poor management, workplace politics or tribalism and can create divisions in business, a breakdown in communication and a high turnover of staff.

Distracted colleagues spend time looking over their shoulder or fretting about personal injustices instead of the work in hand, impacting employee productivity significantly. Studies by analytics firm Gallup, have shown that engaged workers are 17% more productive than their peers across an organisation.

Toxicity itself can be difficult to quantify, however business leaders should proactively seek to remove it from the organisation by building an environment based on trust and transparency, where employees feel comfortable to share information and experiences, without the fear of repercussion.

This will remove any added obstacles to communication and execution and increase the overall pace of the organisation.

Embrace technology.

Customers are increasingly expecting a more seamless and digitally enabled experience from the businesses they interact with, demanding easily accessible self service and cloud based solutions.

Businesses who fall behind the curve in the adoption of technology are at risk of missed opportunity and irrelevancy, in today’s digital economies.

Embracing technology in business can reduce the cost of operation and provide a broader client reach to support growth, however one of the main benefits is the efficiency that is generated from automation, collaboration and the centralisation of data.

This helps businesses react quicker to customer demands, process work orders more consistently and improve the use of data through knowledge share and extrapolation.

Business leaders must make sure that technology is interoperable with existing legacy systems and scalable, however successful digitalisation can greatly improve the speed of business, productivity and all-important customer experience.