“Don’t confuse a flurry of activity for progress. That’s a magician’s trick.”
One of my past Bosses
How often do we see a company doing lots and lots of shit yet we don’t really see any progress?
That’s a business in love with speed, not velocity.
That’s a business which justifies return off of ‘doing’, not progress.
Speed is the distance traveled over time. I can run around in circles with a lot of speed and cover several miles that way, but I’m not getting anywhere. Velocity measures displacement. It’s direction-aware.
My obessesion with velocity means i embrace something called “The Velocity Zone.” The velocity zone has a direct relationship to ‘doing shit’ (progress type projects, not speed/stagnant projects) and “shit with distinction’ (distinct brand messaging & positioning, no ‘bla’/boring/meaninglessness). It is this combination which not embraces generating value but also the velocity necessary to consistently elevate value above competition and the sales associated with doing so.
The enemy of velocity are the ‘to do’ lists are endless with lots checked-off, but never get shorter and the people who are working long hours but what is done never seems to create any meaningful progress.
This is speed while being stagnant. It’s like a hamster in a wheel. It’s not only unsatisfying for the people in the wheel, but the business itself doesn’t gain any satisfying results (although managers are usually quite creative in result presentations to make it seem like shit is moving everyone forward).
Velocity is always about decisions. What I mean by that is there is never any lacks of things to do in a business but some just aren’t worth doing.
Velocity projects fall into 2 slots:
- value creation initiatives which increase velocity of value offered
- velocity initiatives which increase the velocity of the organization itself & indirectly enhances value.
Choose your projects wisely. Velocity is all that matters.
Inherent to any velocity based progress is distinctiveness. All things being equal, being distinct insures multiplicative effect rather than simply an additive element to everything else happening. This doesn’t men you should seek to be bold or vivid in your positioning & messaging & branding just for the sake of doing so. What it means is that you walk as close to the edge of what your brand character/personality is and bring it to life in as vivid a way as possible. This means you are walking as far away from being ‘bla’ (meaningless gray) as possible.
Oddly a current business trend, collaboration, gets in the way of gaining desired distinction. Why? 2 reasons:
- leadership espouses collaboration but implements autocratic decision-making. This typically translates into ‘safe’ which typically translates into ‘bla.’
- the issue collaboration faces is many people think it equates to committee, consensus & incrementalism. Distinction SHOULD be a collaborative effort because the closer you get to the edge the more important it is that everyone believes the edge is a good place to be. But this is not a committee or consensus decision unless you seek to edge closer to ‘bla.’
“In my experience, committees can criticize, but they cannot create. Search the parks in all your cities You’ll find no statues of committees.”
Choose your distinction wisely. Not all distinction is distinct, but being distinct matters.
The Velocity Zone
The Velocity Zone is easy to identify but, surprisingly, many businesses find it difficult to get to. they constantly select incremental progress projects inching up above stagnancy but never really getting any meaningful progress. They constantly dream of being distinct and, yet, pragmatically justify some minor attribute as being ‘bold’ trading the opportunity for distinct for ‘bla.’
There’s only one thing I can guarantee in business. The relationship between business success and the Velocity Zone. If you get in this zone, and stay in this zone you will progress. I will not guarantee you will succeed, but I can guarantee you will not fail.