What need does speed satisfy? LO18092

MargMcI (MargMcI@aol.com)
Wed, 13 May 1998 10:13:52 EDT

Replying to LO18077 --

In a message dated 5/12/98 10:01:29 PM, Don Dwiggins wrote:

>In software development, when deadlines loom, managers often put pressure
>on their people to finish their tasks sooner, cutting corners if
>necessary. About the simplest (and most profound) counterarguments to
>this practice was expressed by a leading software engineering writer, Tim
> People under pressure don't think faster.

This is an interesting issue. Pressure is an ASSESSMENT people make (not
what is happening in reality) and they can react one of three ways:

1) up the energy to make things happen faster
2) get distracted by the pressure and perform worse
3) ignore it and continue on as is

Tim Gallway and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi address this. If our attention is
on the task, all of our attention, we will perform better and not be
stressed because there is no more attention left to feed the internal
conversation of fear and doubt. If we allow our attention to shift from
the task to the conversation of worry, doubt, fear, anger, etc., we cannot
think/perform faster/better. In fact, we will likely perform worse.

There are two components that affect performance after a level of
competency has been attained: energy and attitude. High energy/positive
attitude creates the mental space for focused attention and high
performance. Focused attention leads us to the flow state. When
"pressure" is put on (probably someone making a request or declaration),
it is an attempt to up the energy. Lots of work in business today gets
done under pressure. How people relate to the pressure (positive or
negtive attitude) is a personal matter. Mental toughness training
increases people's ability to focus attention and perform well under
pressure. Thinking is no different a task than athletics in that regard.
In the real world, however, most people are not very skilled at managing
their attention, in which case, your friend's axiom holds.

When I think about what need does speed satisfy, I believe it is a
competitive issue. Time has beome a competitive advantage in business.
Those who get their product out faster (whether it's a new product or
existing product) will likely sell more as long as it meets the minimal
quality requirements. So this focus on time has created a vicious cycle -
the faster people get things, the faster they expect them, the faster
companies try to produce them, the faster competitors try to make them
also. It looks like a game without end! The only thing that will break
it is enough people refusing to play the game any longer.

Margaret McIntyre


MargMcI <MargMcI@aol.com>

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