Hurry Up And Slow Down

Have you ever heard the saying “Slow is Smooth and Smooth is Fast?” The Navy Seals are noted for that particular phrase and its message is much deeper and far more impactful than one might think. At first glance, it may seem like a simple adage or play on words, but in reality it’s a powerful way of thinking that can have a profound impact on everything from business strategies to service delivery. 

I spent roughly eight years in the United States Army as an Infantry Soldier. The modern fighting environment is now predominantly cityscape or urban in nature. These are highly volatile and dynamic fighting environments and in order for these types of operations to be successful all the moving parts have to be in absolute sync and require many, many hours of training and practice. Some of this training is conducted in what we called the “Tire House”, which is essentially a roughly framed building where the walls are lined with rubber tires. These were live fire environments and the old tires helped absorb the round’s velocity. Officers and range cadre would stand on catwalks overlooking the training environment, and from their position they had a clear view of the actions of each team and its respective team members. Cadre would then break down the techniques and strategies into methodical steps that are introduced slowly, and should build on top of one another. We would crawl, walk, then run through each phase of training. We moved from no rounds to blanks or paint rounds, then eventually graduated up to a full fledged live fire exercise. What was first a mix of slow and awkward steps, would eventually become a smooth and deadly dance. 

The idea of slowing down in order to be deliberate in the introduction of each step, and then practicing until it becomes muscle memory, is a perfect example of “slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” The saying was also used to drive the pace that would be set for the operation. If any part moved too fast, and became out of alignment with the rest of the operation, then lives could be lost and the operation would have a high chance of failure. The “speed” of the operation or the actions taken on the battlefield is created by the smoothness of the technique. The deliberateness, proactiveness, and methodical way each phase is executed is what creates the momentum and eventually wins the battle. 

Another concept or perspective taught during MOUT (Military Operations On Urbanized Terrain) training was the Path Of Least Resistance. The path of least resistance is a default setting in our minds that tends to lead us in the direction with the least friction, obstacles or obvious hazards. The problem with this default or subconscious behavior is that it’s used to funnel operators into the “Death Zone”. Enemy forces would often build obstacles, such as light mounds of tires on fire, or block off entry points with the intention of directing our forces into ambush sites or sectors of enemy fire. It’s critical that team members are aware and actively navigate the situation. If a path seems to be blocked it’s vital that team or squad leaders slow down long enough to properly assess the options instead of being led by this default or subconscious guidance system. During training, Cadre would often set similar scenarios up in our Tire Houses and observe our teams as we made this deadly mistake. Those training sessions often ended with flashbangs and the ringing of miles (laser tag for the military) gear as our team members were taken out by simulated enemy fire. Even in a training environment it can be shocking to see an entire unit decimated in a matter of seconds. These scenarios created lessons that set themselves deep in our subconscious with hopes that they wouldn’t be experienced on the battlefield.

Our businesses are one in the same, the dynamic environments we all operate in can be complex and filled with many moving parts. How many times have you found yourself being dominated by the tyranny of the urgent, slapping band-aids over a lack of process, making a desperate hire or creating excuses instead of proper training? We all have, right? At the moment it can seem like the Path of Least Resistance is the correct path and in reality, similar to military environments, that path of least resistance could be the death of you. This type of problem solving or business management can lead us down a path where we are “tripping over dollars to pick up dimes”. Ultimately our impatience or sense of urgency, actually costs us more time or resources, when a simple pause or extra dose of patience would have been more productive. 

By slowing down we have the opportunity to scan, study and observe. We can identify patterns, get below the surface to root of the problem, or identify strategies that provide long-term results. For example, what if your On The Job Training (OJT) looked more like the tire house? Slowed down, broken into smaller concepts that are trained, practiced and then layered on top of one another? It may feel impossible, but what does a poorly trained team member actually create in your business? Unhappy clients, lost business, frustrated leadership and high turnover. What are the hard and soft costs associated with this type of training? I guarantee they are higher than the payroll associated with paying someone to go through proper training. Napoleon was known for saying “Dress me slowly, I am in a hurry”, meaning sometimes the fastest way is to slow down. 

Click below and check out the Head Heart & Boots Podcast – In this episode we wrestle with this exact topic, diving a little deeper into how this mindset can impact our teams.

Brandon Reece

Brandon has spent the last 12 years building and leading restoration companies with a focus on operations and organizational development. He’s a founder and Co-host of the Head Heart & Boots podcast, co-founder of the Floodlight Consulting Group, and co-leads the Floodlight Leadership Circles.  As Co-Owner of Floodlight Consulting Group, he works one-on-one with owners, managers and key personnel of restoration companies across the US. Brandon resides in the beautiful state of Oregon with his wife of 25 years, Janna, and their 2 children – Alex and Abi. To reach him, visit Floodlightgrp.com or email Brandon@floodlightgrp.com. To reach him, visit Floodlightgrp.com or email Brandon@floodlightgrp.com. Listen to the Head Heart and Boots Podcast on Apple iTunes and Spotify.

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