Project Management Tip: Slow Down to Go Faster

As projects ramp up and we all race to deliver on deadlines, often my impulse is to shift into high gear and speed up as well. But then my intuition kicks me and says hey, slow it down — knowing that in the end, it will pay off.

Slow down to go faster. This is how I strive to manage our agency. And a recent article in Forbes about becoming a mindful leader, tells me I’m not alone in this thinking.

Sharpen your saw

After years of being in a fast paced industry, it’s clear to me as a producer that haste makes waste and is usually coupled with a loose grip on the project, a lack of team alignment, and a gaggle of dropped details. Not surprisingly, work completed this way often requires unscheduled revisions or a lackluster delivery.

In a previous article I wrote about sharpening your saw, I talk about how taking the time to condition your tools will lead to more efficient productivity; doing simple (but powerful) things like having a proper lunch, versus pushing through and not eating. Slowing down to go faster is based on a similar principle, but with a more big-picture focus.

Herding cats

When my instinct kicks in to slow down to go faster, it usually involves wrangling the entire team. Slowing down a fast-moving team is about as easy as herding cats, because it’s often a moment that comes when everyone assumes they are doing the right thing by hitting the ground running. But a team that hits the ground running before we re-group, align, and commit to a plan that’s clear, ends up heading in many different directions.

This slowing-down moment can seem very counter-intuitive in project management. Even to me, after all these years, the impulse to just start running can pass through my mind. What happens is, I recall the last time I herded cats and I find myself thinking maybe just this once we can squeak through. But then reason gets the better of me and I remember that slowing it down almost always results in a better product and a more satisfying and efficient work flow. And as contrary as it seems, does not compromise the deadline.

How do you know when it’s time to slow down?

  • If even one person is confused or mistaken about the project goals, tasks, or deliverables; consider them the canary in the coal mine
  • There are conflicting opinions about how to move forward
  • You find yourself plowing through with your fingers crossed

Tips for slowing down

  • A good kickoff meeting is crucial. If you skipped this step, don’t be afraid to stop, re-wind, and kickoff properly.
  • Give everyone on the team the power to call a time-out if they feel their role becomes unclear or convoluted.
  • Trust that two steps backwards usually leads to three steps forward.

Conclusion

Calling time-out on a fast moving project sometimes seems counter-intuitive, and can be a stressful prospect for a team leader. But you have to be willing to trust your instincts that this strategy will ultimately improve the quality and overall work experience, without putting the deadline at risk. After doing this a few times, the benefits will become so clear, you won’t second guess yourself again.

Melanie Barter

Melanie is an executive producer with a creative background in film, digital and marketing. She is originally from Toronto and has worked in Hong Kong, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. She has been in San Francisco since 2004.

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