Patient Urgency, A Contradiction?


It is a contradiction, how can we be patient and display urgency at the same time?  This question came up in a workshop this week.  We were discussing the facets of Adaptive Leadership.  It requires the leader to set clear compelling goals and to create the space for the team to figure out how to reach them.

Speed vs Velocity

This point created a concerned reaction.  “We are under pressure to get things done, and we don’t have time for experiments to figure out what will work and what won’t.”  This reminds me of a cultural challenge in most work environments today.  We have to move fast and always be busy, the more frantic the better.  It reminds me of the difference between velocity and speed.  Speed is moving fast in any direction.  Velocity is going fast in a specific direction.  As you can imagine, I am advocating for velocity over speed.

Balancing Patience and Urgency

So, what do I mean by patient urgency?  When we are dealing with high levels of uncertainty and unpredictability.  We must tread carefully.  There isn’t a right or a wrong path forward.  We have to set a clear goal and encourage our team to try safe to fail ‘experiments’ to figure out the best way forward.  The leader must be patient.  Giving the team the space and protection to feel comfortable trying different approaches.  They need to feel they can fail without the fear of punishment.  Their primary goal is to learn, being right is a bonus.

At the same time, the leader needs to instill a strong sense of urgency.  This is the need to execute disciplined experiments.  Recognizing the goal is learning, they must be willing to fail fast and capture the learning.  The more experiments completed, the greater the learning.  Teams need to execute quickly with a high level of velocity.

With this approach, a leader must role model ‘patient urgency’.  How are you leading your group?  Are you pushing for speed or velocity?  What are you doing to encourage your team to focus on learning?