Before the automobile was in common use many people believed that high-speed car travel would cause the human body to disintegrate starting at about 60 miles per hour. Only 100 years later that belief now sounds so far fetched you probably think I made it up. I did not.

Speed fascinates us and the mystery of it taps into our imagination. As I write this I am traveling in an ordinary jet aircraft traveling some 400 miles per hour and about seven miles above Mother Earth. Ironically, after the flight ended my young daughter told me that the plane we took was “too slow,” which I knew was because once we reached cruising altitude she thought it had actually stopped moving.

It is a strange world.

Second only to our love to move fast is our passion to get information fast. It wasn’t that long ago that a letter from a far away relative was a treasured possession as it took many weeks to travel to its destination.

Today we get information in real-time. An email traveling at the speed of light circles our globe seven times in one second. So, I don’t know about you but when a web page doesn’t load instantly or when I have to wait for my computer to boot, I am a bit impatient.

It is true that we live in a NOW world with instant access to everything. And the faster things move the more we value time. In fact, we so hate wasting time that when an organization puts us through the hoops as we try to get our needs met we simply want to scream with frustration.

Our NOW world has redefined what customers expect. Yes, they expect your organization to meet their needs, although that’s really just the price of admission. Increasingly time is the dimension from which our speed-driven world derives the greatest value when meeting their needs. These are known as the NOW Moments.

That value creation most often requires the intervention of employees. Unless those employees have the skills and authority to take action NOW, your business is at risk of becoming irrelevant to your customers.

And our passion for speed is only accelerating.

We live in a time where we must do Business at the Speed of Now. Management’s new job is to enable their employees to deliver on the NOW Moments.

84 days and counting until the release of Business at the Speed of NOW

Far more than a boxy black horseless carriage, the Ford Model T is a symbol for many things that made the U.S. a great nation. Not only was it the first automobile produced in mass quantity (15 million were produced between 1908 and 1927), but it fueled a revolution in management.

“I will build a car for the great multitude,” said Henry Ford at its initial release. “It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.”

In 1909 it sold for $850 (equivalent in today’s dollars of $20,709), but by the 1920s mass production techniques were so successful that the sales price had dropped to $290 ($3,289 today). At that price, the automobile achieved Ford’s dream and became standard transportation for the masses.

While that reality is incredible in and of itself, the enduring contribution of Henry Ford was a system of thinking – a logic for running an enterprise – a management approach that was so effective and efficient it was widely emulated.  Specialization, functionalization, centralization, simplification. Ford tuned his system, employing some of the earliest “management science” techniques, and that thinking is still in popular use in the vast majority of enterprises today.

The result of great efficiency was a circular economic engine that produced affordable products and worker wages sufficient to buy the very products the mass production engine generated. The great American middle class was born, fed, sheltered, and eventually made increasingly comfortable with dishwashers, plasma televisions, computers and an iPhone in every hand.

While a blessing in a thousand ways, Ford’s system of management became so ingrained in our management thinking that we lost track of the fact that it was an ideal construct for its time, not the only way to run an organization. Mass Production worked THEN.

Today, our economy thrives on Mass Customization. We live in an era where YES is the only viable value proposition and NOW is the only acceptable timeframe. This is NOW! Failure to understand this fundamental shift puts any business at risk of surviving through the biggest economic shift in a century.

(To comment on this blog, click on its headline and look for the comment box following it. To have this blog series arrive in your email box automatically each time it comes out, click on the RSS button to subscribe)

The possibility of having a graphic designer in Indonesia and your sister-in-law, who may live down the street from you, in competition for your business is real and its implications are profound. This new reality, enabled by the internet, sets in motion a competitive whirlwind that could easily be seen by any local designer as incredibly unfair, and stirs anger among the traditionalists as to a means to obtain image counsel. While there is certainly merit in the argument, low cost and speed are attractive lures for the consumer. No place for IBM to go for council, but the new realtor opening doors down the street doesn’t need high-end expertise. (more…)

Leaders need innovative and powerful tools to overcome the complex challenges that limit or prevent them from moving their organizations forward on multiple fronts. In addition, today’s business environment requires problem-solving across the enterprise. Visual business solutions meet these needs by providing leaders with proven methods for accelerating their organizations in multiple areas. (more…)