Economy of Speed: How to Make Your Organization Move Faster

Yoshito Hori, president of GLOBIS University, managing partner of GLOBIS Capital Partners, shares his views from an entrepreneur's perspective.

The internet, rapid technological innovation and ever more adaptable business models have produced a business environment that’s changing at break-neck speed.

To survive in this accelerated world, organizations have got to learn to move fast. Everything—communication, decision-making, teamwork, the delivery of products and services—has to be done quicker than before. Speed is key.

At my company, we took a long and hard look at ourselves, and at other firms’ best practices, before coming up with five basic policies to become a speedier organization.

1. 24-HOUR RESPONSE RULE

We introduced a rule that all e-mails have to be answered within 24 hours, or one business day. After that, the sender is free to treat a non-response as agreement. With mails copied to many recipients, the 24-hour rule accelerates debate between all parties, with the result that issues that could drag on for days or weeks get sorted out in a single day.

Softbank, the telecoms and internet company headed by Masayoshi Son, was my inspiration for this policy. Softbank, however, had a 48-hour rule, so we literally doubled down on this one!

2. INTERNAL STAIRCASES. NO PARTITIONS

We rent space over several floors of a large office building. The building’s elevators and staircase can only be reached by going out through secure doors and along a corridor. To make it quicker and easier for people to go and talk directly to their colleagues on other floors, we built additional internal staircases. This cost us a great deal of money, but the benefits from free and easy internal communication justify the expense.

To boost internal communication further, we also got rid of partitions and private offices. My desk is out on the floor with everyone else; anyone can come to see me anytime, and I can also “manage by wandering around.” I got this idea from a visit to the open-plan offices of Bloomberg, the financial data company. (One Bloombergism I did not adopt was the concept of glass-walled meeting rooms, which must be distracting for everyone concerned.)

3. CHOPPING THE CHOP

Most Japanese companies retain an old-fashioned, bureaucratic approval process which involves circulating documents until all the relevant department heads have stamped them with their official chop or seal (hanko or inkan in Japanese). The system is a notorious time-waster, and I detested it when I worked in a large trading company in my twenties. I made a conscious decision when I set up my own firm in 1992 that we would never use a chop—and we never have.

4. NOODLE DISCIPLINE

All our meetings have to start and end on time. Nothing saps morale like a meeting that gets underway late and drags on with no clear end-point. Equally, nothing is as energizing as a brisk, well-run meeting that yields prompt and tangible results. In our VC business, we have a rule that anyone who arrives late to a meeting has to treat everyone else to a lunch of spicy tantan-men noodles. This threat seems to keep everyone nice and punctual!

5. SHARED VALUES AND CLEAR GOALS

This last point is obvious, but no less important for that.

To make decisions fast everyone in the organization needs to be thinking and acting in alignment with the same core values. We have a staff book that clearly explains our vision, mission and values. This makes sure that all of us are pointing in the same direction from the get-go.

We also instituted quarterly one-on-one meetings between bosses and their team members to discuss key parameter indicators (KPI, or any measurable goals or objectives). Because of these one-on-ones, every individual in the organization has a crystal-clear understanding of precisely what it is they’re meant to be doing over the next three months. Again, everyone is in alignment in micro as well as macro terms.

These are the five key approaches we adopted to make our organization move faster.

Perhaps they appear a bit of an eccentric jumble to you.

My only answer to that is: THEY WORKED!

What are you doing to make your organization speedier? I’m curious to hear all your ideas, borrowed, adapted or original.

After all, being receptive and open-minded is the first step to building a speedy and adaptable organization.

(Photo: Shutterstock / Ollyy)

Author

Mr. Yoshito Hori established GLOBIS Management School in 1992 and GLOBIS Capital Partners in 1996. In 2003, GLOBIS started its original MBA program which, in 2006, received accreditation from the Japanese Ministry of Education and gained “university” status. GLOBIS started a part-time MBA program in English in 2009 and a full-time MBA program in English in 2012.

A Harvard MBA graduate and former Sumitomo Corporation employee, Mr. Hori founded the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Japan Chapter in 1995 and became the first board member from Asia in charge of Asia Pacific region in 1996. He also served on the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s New Asian Leaders Executive Committee and Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership, as well as the Harvard Business School Alumni Board from 2005 to 2008. Currently, Mr. Hori is a board member of the Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), and serves as co-chair of WEF’s Global Growth Companies.

In 2008, he launched the G1 Summit – a Japanese version of the WEF’s annual Davos forum. This led to the foundation of G1 Summit Institute in 2013, which Mr. Hori serves as Representative Director.

Just days after a huge earthquake struck northeast Japan in March 2011, Mr. Hori launched Project KIBOW to support the rebuilding of the disaster-affected areas. The following year Project KIBOW was incorporated as the KIBOW Foundation, which Mr. Hori serves as Representative Director.

An avid enthusiast of the Japanese game Go since age 40, Mr. Hori has been Director of the Nihon Ki-in (Japan Go Association) since June 2013.

Since October 2013, Mr. Hori has hosted a weekly TV program in Japan called Nippon Mirai Kaigi (Japan Future Conference). He has authored several books including Visionary Leaders who Create and Innovate Societies, Six Dimensions of Life, and My Personal Mission Statement.

Mr. Hori received his BS in Engineering from Kyoto University and his MBA from Harvard Business School.

He is an avid swimmer and enjoys spending time with his family, especially his five sons.

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