“Quick vs. Right” is a phrase that makes me cringe every time I hear it used. One of the most common copouts inept leaders use in masking their decisioning inadequacies is to delay pronouncement on the grounds that they currently possess insufficient information to make an astute decision. Almost without fail, this tactic is a trite and cliched attempt to somehow insinuate that speed in decisioning is a weakness, and that quick decisions are somehow synonymous with reckless decisions. In today’s post I’ll share with you why slow decisioning as a CEO puts both your company and your career at risk…

While there is little debate that speed can create an extreme competitive advantage, it is not well understood that the lack of speed can send a company (or an CEO’s career) into a death spiral. Agility, fluidity, decisiveness, commitment and focus all lead to the creation of speed which results in a certainty of execution. There is an old saying which states “the best decision is a quick decision, the next best decision is no decision, and the worst decision is a slow decision.”

General George S. Patton said it best: “A good plan violently executed today is far and away better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” The pursuit of perfection is one of great adversaries of speed, performance, execution. In fact, at the risk of being controversial I’m going to take the position that perfection does not exist. I hate to break it to you, but those of you who regard yourselves as perfectionists simply exhibit perfectionistic tendencies in an unrealistic attempt to achieve what cannot be had.

The pursuit of perfectionism rarely results in a competitive advantage, but it will result in time delays, cost overruns, missed deadlines, and unkept commitments. I would suggest that rather than seeking what cannot in most cases ever be achieved, that it makes more sense to seek the highest standard of quality that can be delivered in the shortest period of time, and that is economically balanced relative to the constraints of an ever shifting marketplace.

There are those that would argue that speed in synonymous with undisciplined decisioning, but I would caution you against confusing speed with reckless abandon I’m a big proponent of planning, assessment, analysis and strategy, but only if it is concluded in a timely fashion. “Analysis Paralysis” leads to missed opportunities and failed initiatives. Speed is your friend embrace it leverage it win with it.

Earlier in my career I served as Director of Internet Strategy for what was at that time the world’s largest web-enablement firm. While serving in that position I coined the term e-velocity which we used to describe the influence that web-based technology was having on the pace at which business had to be conducted in order to remain competitive. It used to be acceptable to take 12 to 18 months to roll-out an initiative, but in today’s world you better be able to do it in 90 days or it will be obsolete before it gets to market.

When I first started in business it was usual and customary to produce 5 and 10 year business plans and today I work off of rolling 90 day tactical business plans. The latest advances in Business Process Management (BPM) have seen a reduction in the planning and budgeting cycle from 120 and 90 days to 45 days. But, is 45 days good enough? How many days constitute a responsive cycle time? Many believe the right number is between 5 and 10 days. Why is cycle time reduction important? Because shorter planning and budgeting processes facilitate greater flexibility and responsiveness. Shortening cycle times requires a sense of urgency and high velocity decisioning. Slow minded executives simply erode margins, stifle innovation, and erase competitive advantage.

In today’s competitive business environment you must quickly be able to assess risk and make timely decisions. You cannot be successful being guided by fear and hesitation. When in doubt, remember that “Speed Kills” and that “he who hesitates is lost.” As a CEO Coach I can tell you that without question the best CEOs are able to make very complex decisions, on short time frames, and with incomplete information. If you don’t possess the experience or intellectual acuity to make quick decisions then you better surround yourself with sound counsel and advise from those who can.