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Speed Will Come

By Steve Kane Updated on May 26th, 2022

The US Navy SEALs are credited by many with coining the expression “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” The idea here comes from training people to perform technical tasks correctly in an environment where there is no room for error. A task as seemingly simple as moving a team of five people from outside a room, through a door into the room is practiced over and over very slowly. This is done because there are many ways for the maneuver to go wrong. Team members could stumble into each other, end up in the wrong position in the room, miss threats they should immediately see, etc.

Decide How This Will End

Each member of the team has a specific role and specific objective. Getting from the starting position outside the room to the ending position inside the room is planned very deliberately. The process is practiced at a painfully slow pace so that the team learns how to avoid every potential failure mode. Repeating the practice slowly and deliberately helps build strong neural pathways so that the movements eventually become automatic. When these movements become automatic, the team moves smoothly. When moving smoothly, as a team, the movements become automatic. Then they become fast. The maneuver into the room ends well because the process of getting to the end position was designed and practiced very deliberately.

Speed Will Come

Practicing slowly and deliberately helps ensure the practice is performed correctly. After all, practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. A skill isn’t to be practiced until you get it right, it’s to be practiced until you can’t get it wrong. Speed comes after that.

We Don’t Have Time to Do It Right, but We Always Have Time to Do It Twice

There can oftentimes be a tendency to rush into implementing new ideas or methods in the continuous improvement world. Management wants results–now. Rushing rarely generates desired results. Short cuts are typically the long way around.

Implement your improvements slowly and deliberately. Practice so thoroughly that you can’t get it wrong. Getting it right every time is the desired result. So, go slow. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.


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