The internet, rapid technological innovation, and ever more adaptable business models have produced a business environment that’s changing at breakneck speed. To survive in this accelerated world, organizations have got to learn to move fast. Everything—communication, decision-making, teamwork, the delivery of products and services—has to be done quicker than ever before.
In times like these, speed is king.
My company, GLOBIS, is no exception. We had to take a long, hard look at ourselves (and at other firms’ best practices) to determine where we were wasting time and, by extension, other resources. Our analysis identified some easy areas to trim the fat.
Want to know how to make your organization move faster? We came up with five basic policies to help us become a speedier (and thereby more competitive) organization. And you can surely use them, too.
1. The 24-hour Response Rule
The first thing to know about how to make your organization move faster is this: Speed starts from within.
At GLOBIS, we identified email as one of the easy areas we could optimize. We introduced a rule that all emails have to be answered within twenty-four hours (or one business day). And it came with an ultimatum: after twenty-four hours, the sender is free to treat a non-response as agreement.
The twenty-four hour email rule motivates people on all sides. After all, it doesn’t only apply to two-person communication. As with most organizations, we often have email chains with half a dozen or more people CC’d—some of them (like myself) high-level executives. The rule applies to those emails, too. It works to accelerate debate between all parties. With the pressure to speak within twenty-four hours or hold their peace, issues that once dragged on for days or weeks began to get sorted out in a single day.
Softbank, the telecoms and internet company headed by Masayoshi Son, was my inspiration for this policy. Softbank, however, has a forty-eight-hour rule. We literally doubled down on this one to make our organization move faster!
2. Internal Staircases, No Partitions
The GLOBIS Tokyo office is located across several floors of a large office building. The building’s elevators and staircase can only be reached by going out through secure doors and along a corridor—not ideal if you want people from different departments to have easy access to each other.
So what did we do? We made more stairs. Inside the office.
This cost us a great deal of money, but the benefits from free and easy internal communication justify the expense. And we didn’t stop there. To boost internal communication further, we also got rid of partitions and private offices. I’m the CEO, and my desk is out on the floor with everyone else. Anyone can come to see me anytime, and I can also manage by . . . well, wandering around.
If you want to know how to make your organization move faster, consider the ROI of literally breaking down barriers. Everyone knows communication is a critical business tool. Separate floors, offices, and even partitions break down communication when you should be building it up.
I got this idea from a visit to the open-plan offices of financial data giant Bloomberg. (One Bloombergism I did not adopt was the concept of glass-walled meeting rooms—that just seemed too distracting for everyone!)
3. Seal away the Seal
If you’re wondering how to make your organization move faster, there’s a good chance you’re feeling frustrated with red tape. And I understand—no one knows bureaucracy like Japan!
Most Japanese companies retain an old-fashioned, bureaucratic approval process which involves circulating documents until all the relevant department heads have stamped them with their official seal (hanko or inkan in Japanese). The system is a notorious time-waster, and I detested it when I worked in a large trading company in my twenties. So when I set up GLOBIS in 1992, I vowed that we would never rely on literal seals of approval—and we never have.
Sometimes, as in the case of Softbank or Bloomberg, you can get great ideas from other companies. Other times, to make your organization move faster, you should think about pain points you’ve struggled with and take the plunge to cut them out of the equation entirely.
4. Noodle Discipline
Here’s a simple (almost no-brainer) way to make your organization move faster: decree that all meetings have to start and end on time.
It sounds simple, but it’s much more challenging in practice.
The key here is expert meeting facilitation and a commitment to keep things moving—or making an executive decision if it looks like you’re running out of time: “OK, looks like we only have a few minutes left. Let’s hold a follow-up meeting to discuss the things we didn’t get to.” Even better, if you sense some of the meeting points don’t really need discussion (maybe they can be covered in an email, for example), say so. Nothing saps morale like a meeting that gets underway late and drags on with no end in sight. But nothing is as energizing as a brisk, well-run meeting that yields prompt and tangible results.
And if you need a little more incentive than empathy, here’s an idea: In our VC business, we have a rule that anyone who arrives late to a meeting has to treat everyone else to a lunch of spicy tantan-men noodles. This threat seems to keep everyone nice and punctual!
5. Shared Values and Clear Goals
This last point to make your organization move faster is obvious, but no less important for that.
To make decisions fast, everyone in the organization needs to be thinking and acting in alignment with the same core values. We have a staff book that clearly explains the GLOBIS vision, mission, and values. Everyone has a copy, and everyone has to read it when they join the company. This ensures that all of us are pointing in the same direction from the get-go.
We also instituted quarterly one-on-one meetings (management by objectives, or MBOs) between bosses and their team members to discuss KPIs, or any measurable goals or objectives. Because of these one-on-ones, every individual in the organization has a crystal-clear understanding of precisely what it is they’re meant to be doing over the next three months. Again, everyone is in alignment in micro as well as macro terms.
Make Your Organization Move Faster—Like GLOBIS
These five key approaches have made GLOBIS move much faster day to day. At least some of them are sure to work for your company, as well. If you’re not in upper management, it may be hard to convince your bosses of major remodeling, but even junior employees can do their part to keep meetings running smoothly and respond to emails in a timely manner.
If you’re looking at these and thinking they appear to be an eccentric jumble, my only response is this: they worked! Hard to argue with that!
These solutions can work at all levels if you make a convincing case (try some critical thinking techniques if you’re nervous!). If you want to make your organization move faster, be receptive and open-minded. Building a speedy and adaptable organization starts with the right mindset.