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  • Marnie Suss

how leaders improve decision-making with intentional acceleration

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

A crisis response and a company environment often require swift and effective decision making. In this post we’ll explore the insights from the high-speed nature of a crisis, and why promoting a ‘fast-paced culture’ is a decision-making trap that can be detrimental to a company’s long-term success.

What is a fast-paced environment?

My perspective on a "fast-paced environment" might deviate from the norm, leaning towards an extreme interpretation due to my background. Such an environment signifies a scenario when information or circumstances change so rapidly that the human brain cannot adequately process the information in a rational or logical way. External factors frequently dictate this tempo, leaving decision-makers with limited choices, compelling them to quickly act in order to mitigate potential harm.

This situation imposes several limitations on crisis decision-makers, which are often unavoidable in a crisis. However, most companies self-impose a variation of a fast-paced environment making the limitations and constraints avoidable.

Let’s explore three of the most common decision-making traps and constraints created by a fast-paced environment.

Elevated sense of urgency and intensity

In the realm of crisis response, a heightened sense of urgency and intensity prevail due to the potential grave consequences, such as loss of life or adverse impacts on livelihoods. This intensified urgency often shortens the window of decision-making, potentially leading to hasty or ill-informed choices. However, this pace of response and decision-making becomes challenging to sustain over prolonged periods, inviting other pitfalls like decision fatigue or paralysis.

Expanded Scope and Impact

Additionally, a crisis marked by rapid change can swiftly expand its scope and consequences, often surpassing even the most prepared decision-makers and organizations. For those grappling with crises, it's not just the speed itself, but the speed of expansion and the unforeseen secondary and tertiary impacts that become problematic.

Increased pivots and course corrections

Rapid decisions, as a consequence of this accelerated pace, frequently give rise to unintended repercussions. While a decision might address one issue, it could inadvertently ignite another. The fast-paced nature of a crisis fosters an environment of frequent pivots and course corrections. Achieving the balance between well-informed decisions and timely action is a delicate balance.

So what can companies and leaders do to improve decision-making?

1. Focus on intentional acceleration rather than a generic notion of speed.

Intentional acceleration involves precisely defining when and why the company might experience an upsurge in pace and productivity. Given that numerous companies engage in annual or quarterly planning, preparing for and designating specific periods for intentional acceleration becomes more feasible. Clear delineation of these periods empowers leaders to foster collaboration and motivation, all while mitigating the risk of burnout. Employees can then understand that the heightened pace is temporary, enabling them to mentally prepare for the sprint.

2. Encourage progress over perfection to balance pace with strategy.

Emphasizing a "fast-paced" culture can often lead to reckless decision-making and extravagant spending. This tendency is especially prevalent during economic peaks when companies embark on rapid hiring sprees without a cohesive direction or alignment with long-term objectives. Instead, businesses should promote progress over perfection, encouraging steady and strategic progress versus progress defined by speed.

3. Reduce frequent and costly pivots resulting from “fast-paced” decision-making practices.

Minimizing the frequency and cost of pivots resulting from "fast-paced" decision-making practices is essential. Frequent pivots can be demoralizing for employees, particularly when it becomes evident that they stem from impulsive decision-making. Companies can mitigate unnecessary pivots by adopting a robust and flexible decision-making framework designed to swiftly and comprehensively evaluate options.

Embracing Intentional Acceleration

A true fast-paced environment is far from being an aspiration. Rather, it can inadvertently cause more harm than good to an organization, its goals, and the well-being of its employees. Instead, a fundamental shift in how companies manage the tempo of their environment is warranted. While there are instances when work and effort must be accelerated to seize opportunities, such intentional accelerations should be strategically executed to sidestep the traps stemming from an artificially induced, self-imposed fast-paced environment.

While there is no alternative to the fast-paced nature of a crisis, most companies do have a choice in their pace and approach.



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