Virtually all natural systems have intrinsically optimal rates of growth. In most systems, the fastest rate is not the optimal rate. When growth becomes excessive, the system will compensate by slowing down. This natural resistance to growth can expose the organization to risk.
Faster is slower is the next principle of systems thinking from Peter Senge’s classic book “The Fifth Discipline: The Art And Practice Of The Learning Organization.” Organizations must grow or die, but they can also grow and die.
As a leader, how do you know the optimal rate of growth for your group or organization? The optimal rate of growth is very difficult to quantify, and even if you could, it is not a constant.
But you can’t learn it unless you live it. If you are not personally connected to the “vital organs” of your system, you will never be able to tell when the spasms of pain are part of the natural process of growth or when they are a signal of the genesis of disease. One requires your immediate care, the other does probably does not.
The farther your leadership is removed from the daily value chain of your system, and the harder you push to drive change from the outside looking in, the more likely you are to be blindsided by the principle of faster is slower. Your sycophantic underlings will tickle your ears with distorted reports of the wisdom and efficacy of your change, and you will never care until it’s too late that your mandate of growth was more than your current system could sustain.
You will most likely never understand why your house of cards came crashing down, and it probably won’t even matter. Because your short-term success was rewarded with a promotion, you won’t be around to witness (or learn from) the full effects of your bad decisions.