Speed vs. Excellence?


Last Friday I wrote about the need for speed, and (unrelated) on the same day Tom Peters tweeted:

Tweets by Tom Peters
I would never say “speed is all”. Or that you should be hasty. I don’t think there should be a tradeoff between speed and excellence.

Being agile and nimble are ways of getting to excellence. They involve listening and responding to the customer, rather than creating ivory tower strategies that are out of date before they can even be put into action.

The first time I heard this idea was in a 1986 Harvard Business Review article, “Hustle as Strategy”. The author, arguing against the idea of a sustainable competitive advantage, wrote, “The competitive scriptures almost systematically ignore the importance of hustle and energy. While they preach strategic planning, competitive strategy, and competitive advantage, they overlook the record of a surprisingly large number of very successful companies that vigorously practice a different religion. These companies don’t have long-term strategic plans with an obsessive preoccupation on rivalry. They concentrate on operating details and doing things well. Hustle is their style and their strategy. They move fast, and they get it right.” (You don’t need a subscription to create a free account to read it.)

Steve Jobs didn’t always get it right, either. He had many product failures including the Lisa, original Macintosh, and NeXT. They may have been visionary, but they didn’t sell.

On the other hand, it’s not unreasonable to think of the iPod as an MVP for the iPhone, which it has essentially killed it off. In his introduction to the iPhone Jobs described it as a combo iPod, phone and Internet device. (If you’ve never watched a Steve Jobs product intro, give yourself that pleasure. His are the gold standard of corporate presentations.)

Be fast. But not at the expense of quality.

And, BTW, check out business author, strategist and consultant Tom Peters on Twitter. Unlike most thought leaders on the platform, he has active conversations. Nice.