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The Relationship between Being Fast and Managing Information

February 07, 2008

In this blog I want to talk a little about the relationship between being fast or Agile and how you manage information at work. If you extrapolate the Agile orientation to business process, it comes up looking like businesses who are focused, effectively using feedback and very small teams and anchor their step-by-step process with concrete deliverables, and ultimately are Fast .

With respect to information and time, you can certainly go fast by ignoring or not bothering to update information (use what’s worked before, personal preference, etc.). This looks very quickly like the Fire – Ready – Aim process, and ultimately the results aren’t so good, and give this mode of being fast a bad name.

On the other hand, if information is overemphasized, if you demand a really complete discovery of information, it usually means you can’t go fast. It’s easy to ask for more information than is readily available or even produceable based upon what’s known and what’s being measured. Asking for a comprehensive information review may be necessary, but it always slows the process down, particularly at the front end.

Ultimately, going Fast is directly impacted by the process of managing information. In this blog I’ll be covering a few observations I have gathered over the years about how being Fast and Information work with each other, specifically a brief look at three factors that drive speed: a) the Actionable quality, b) Focus and c) Timing.

1. Actionable: To support speed, information is only as good as is its ability to be converted into action. Information that informs without translating into action doesn’t help speed. In order to rapidly integrate and respond to information, you need to break information down to actionable chunks; otherwise you slow the process down. Most people don’t read a paragraph after 4 sentences, and we struggle even more with retaining our focus and integrating it into actions after reading 40 pages. Keep the thought short, succinct, accurate, but in 25-50 words or less. Note: Having many items in a “long list”, gives a certain comfort level because of its “completeness”, but actually forces the user to slow down when trying to actionalize it. “OK, so what do I focus on today, where do I start, what do I do next?”

2. Focus: Actionable chunks are directly tied to focus. Information that you can act on, is information that you can keep in focus. It looks like clusters of 1 to 3 to 6 pieces of data. If you remember the movie, City Slickers, there’s the famous line where the philosophy of the movie is captured with Curly tells Billy Crystal he just needs to know what the number 1 thing is, and presumably go after that. Just having one thing to do, is very actionable. You can retain up to 3 things to do pretty easily. As you get up to 6, it gets harder to keep it all in perspective and moving ahead. You start slowing down.

3. Timing: Information helps you go fast when it comes at the right time. Searching for information when you need it directly slows you down. Information given too far ahead of time or after the fact, both rely on the assumption it will speed up the process some time in the future. That may be true, it may not. But information in real time, at your finger tips, the sort of information that provides immediate feedback is the type that helps you not only go fast but also be fast.

Bottom Line: Speed and managing information are intimately inter-twined at both a cognitive level, and also at a technology level. The information and speed relationship is part of the reason I rely upon ManagePro everyday, I need the ability to translate plans into actions, maintain focus and get immediate feedback. Here’s to your success at being effectively fast and informed.

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