PROJECTS IN SLOW MOTION

Tortoise Everything is faster these days. Faster than what? Faster than it was a moment ago. Project schedules of all types no longer abide by 40 hour work weeks. Design cycles barely give consumers enough time to even get comfortable with changes in product lines. Books come to market about major current events only weeks after they happen; follow-up films to Hollywood blockbusters come out like the changing of the seasons. Major retailers are starting to experiment with same-day delivery solutions.

That's why, when it really counts, when reputation and big money is on the line, I almost always turn to the file folder of ideas I've been gathering for years.

Sure, sure: when it's time to put ideas into action, I like to think we move like lightning. But as a general rule, faster isn't better in much the same way that lethargy won't ever get you where you're going either.

Do you ever eat a salad? Intellectually, you know that those vegetables took weeks if not months to grow. There's simply no way to grow them faster, even if you consume them in mere minutes. Were you ever a child who wondered about his or her grown-up life, years away? It took you years to become that grown-up. Sometimes the most meaningful projects happen in slow motion.

What I find interesting here is that slow motion does not have to mean boring. If you've ever watched the countdown for a rocket carrying astronauts, it takes place with deliberate, almost tedious precision. On the way to the big boom, the rocket masters even pause for built-in holds. The clock stops while lengthy checklists and evaluations take place all over the launch facility. No doubt the process could be expedited, but when human life is in jeopardy, the need for speed clearly pales. Perhaps it's not nearly as vital as that mortal component, but you might feel a similar feeling if vast sums of make-or-break capital are on the line, too. Go too fast, and you risk calamity. Failure is generally not an option.

My point is this: feel free to go quickly at whatever game you're playing. Go fast to compete; go fast to impress; go fast to get it done and out of the way. But go too fast at your own peril. Some things are supposed to take time. You can make a bottle of wine in just a few months, but most varieties benefit from appropriate aging.

--MS

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