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Think Fast, Eat Fast

Back in the day I took part in a huge exercise in corporate futility when Intuit (makers of Quicken and QuickBooks), which had grown to perhaps seven or eight hundred employees, took two days off to go to the San Jose Convention Center, split into small groups, and try to come up with a bottom-up Mission Statement.

Now, there may be nothing more sterile than a group-generated mission statement.  The group process filters out anything but the most common-denominator, banal business chestnuts: “we are our people”; “we add value by serving our customers”; “we strive for excellence in everything”.  In the case of Intuit, we had had a corporate culture thanks to Scott Cook and others of the founding team that stressed “doing right by the customer”, making the software easier to use than a pencil, and so forth.  This was all lost in the torrent of groupthink and, when the final document emerged some months later, it was, IMHO, useless.

It had a section on Operating Values, which was probably the least useless section in the book.  One of them sticks with me today: “Think Fast Move Fast”.  It stressed Intuit’s committment to reaching decisions and acting off them swiftly.  Not bad in theory, perhaps (although what company wouldn’t have this as a principle?).

The reality was somewhat different.  Many of the teams were running around like chickens with our heads cut off, making “ready fire aim” decisions that had be undone by other “ready fire aim” decision the next week or month.  Some of us more ironic wags — and remember, as my British friend Steve Rowe said, that “irony is sarcasm with an English accent” — paraphrased this Operating Value as “Think Fast Eat Fast.”

Alas, running around like chickens with our heads cut off has become universal, and is a big sap on productivity.  Ten quick decisions undone by one another and mooted by inertia easily exceed the overhead of one more careful decision.  We are awash in a sea of shooting-from-the-hip Think Fast Eat Fast-ery.

Slow down, eat a little more slowly, and think about stuff just a bit before rushing off.

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