Unlock Sustainable Growth: Master the art of “Starting Slow to Go Fast”

We live in a world where the winners have a “bias towards action” and are comfortable “failing fast and failing often.” In order to hit goals and continue moving forward, urgency has become the key to success.

But there is another concept we should all be made aware of: Start Slow to Go Fast.

U.S. Navy Seals have a similar saying, “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” They use this phrase to emphasize the importance of performing tasks methodically and precisely in high-pressure situations. 

Rushing to the finish line means missing steps early in the race that create unneeded complications such as:

  • Burnout
  • Poorly defined roles
  • Lack of clarity in a plan
  • Insufficient skill development

Communication issues and conflict

Saving time in the early stages of development will quickly get expensive.

Workers experiencing recent or current change were more than twice as likely to report chronic work stress compared with employees who reported no recent, current or anticipated change (55% vs. 22%), and more than four times as likely to report experiencing physical health symptoms at work (34% vs. 8%). Working Americans who reported recent or current change were more likely to say they experienced work-life conflict (39% vs. 12% for job interfering with non-work responsibilities and 32% vs. 7% for home and family responsibilities interfering with work), felt cynical and negative toward others during the workday (35% vs. 11%), and ate or smoked more during the workday than they did outside of work (29% vs. 8%).

When building a house, it’s essential to begin with a strong, stable foundation that ensures the structure is built to last for a long time. Approaching this foundational work with care and intention is critical. Rushing through these steps would lead to a fragile structure, causing potential issues and costly repairs.

Similarly, in business, building a robust foundation—through thoughtful planning, assembling a team of humble and hardworking individuals, developing efficient processes, and nurturing a collaborative culture—is the key to long-term success. 

As a leader, you will empower your team to grow and become adaptable by investing time and energy in creating a resilient foundation. 

Let’s look at three businesses that did not start slow to go fast:

Quibi

Quibi, a short-form streaming platform launched in 2020, failed to gain traction among users due to its high subscription cost, lack of shareable content, and limited device compatibility. Its rapid push to market without understanding customer needs to be contributed to its failure. It served as a cautionary tale about the importance of refining a product before attempting to scale.

Webvan

Webvan was an online grocery delivery service that expanded too quickly during the dot-com boom, investing heavily in infrastructure before it had the customer base to support it. This aggressive spending eventually led to bankruptcy in 2001, highlighting the importance of validating customer demand and developing a sustainable growth strategy before scaling operations.

Theranos

Theranos was a health technology company that aimed to revolutionize the medical testing industry. Elizabeth Holmes and her team rushed to market with their innovative blood testing device without conducting proper validation and testing. As a result, the device’s accuracy and reliability came into question, and the company faced significant legal, financial, and reputational damage. In addition, the team was negatively impacted by the pressure to deliver quick results, which eventually led to the company’s downfall and criminal charges against Holmes.

So how do you start slow to go fast?

Starting slow to go fast is a way to think about managing change in your business. 

Three questions you should ask yourself to create the strategy:

  • What is the goal of this change, and why is it important?
  • Who on my team will be impacted?
  • What will be needed to successfully create this change?

These questions should all be answered BEFORE you start making your plans to ensure you are not missing important steps. 

The reality is most changes in your business will require the people on your team to change how they do the things they do. As a leader, you need to accept the fact that change is really hard for people. (Even when the change will personally benefit them.)

But it will be much easier to influence change when you can explain to all levels of your organization why the change is important and show them that you’ve taken the time to consider how they will be impacted.

If you are leading leaders, take time to ask them how they anticipate this change will impact their team. Part of starting slow is taking time to listen and process before making decisions.

Answering these questions before creating a plan will help ensure that your team feels and is supported through the process. 

When it is time to implement change, you want to be able to get in front of your group and say, “We know change is hard, but this is why it is important… And we know this means this will require everyone to do their job a little differently, and this is what we are doing to make sure you are supported.”

Start with Why and the support you are providing before you roll out the plan.  Have questions? I’d love to hear them.

Jacob Espinoza is a leadership coach in Salem, Oregon. For more information visit JacobEspinoza.com.

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