It's not always easy to know when to prioritize speed vs. quality in business. There may be more than one right answer.
Should leadership prioritize speed or quality? It depends on the situational context--but even then, the right answer can be far from obvious. According to a recent Forbes Business Development Council post, this dilemma doesn't even rank among the top 14 challenges that business leaders face in 2021. However, when you look closely and read between the lines, a proper balance of the two can help mitigate many of the pressing issues.
It’s not always possible to complete every task or project to the utmost degree within the necessary timeline. Time has a habit of moving more quickly than anticipated when you’re working against a deadline, and most initiatives are often interrupted by unforeseen roadblocks or alternative priorities. Here are a few things to consider in the eternal debate of time versus quality (or vice versa).
Everything you need to accomplish is important, which can make prioritizing difficult. When you're juggling multiple tasks, take a moment to analyze everything currently on the table, then decide on the best order in which to execute them. For junior-level employees, this is often easier to do, as you should prioritize what’s most important to your manager.
For business leaders, finding the balance that yields the optimal outcome is much more difficult. There are always tradeoffs between emphasizing one over the other, and determining the best approach can be stressful, particularly when the impact on your business is high.
You want to be thorough and tenacious in order to offer the best product or service to your customer--but customers' increasingly expect virtually immediate results, and you have to meet their demands in order to stay afloat.
In today’s world, speed of service is becoming a key metric in improving your customer experience. According to a recent study from Price Waterhouse Coopers, 80% of American consumers point to speed as one of the most important elements of customer satisfaction, and outside of the U.S., customers value speed even more.
Speed can mean a variety of things, ranging from instant customer service to complex same-day delivery of a product. Nearly 50% of consumers say they'd pay extra to increase delivery speed. If you fail to deliver, your competition will run laps around you. Adapt, or die.
But here’s the catch: when it comes to speed, you don’t necessarily have to compromise quality. If you audit your processes, for example, you look to improve both quality and speed. More often than not, a continued emphasis on quality will ultimately increase speed down the line.
It's worth noting that this tradeoff pertains mostly to industries less sensitive to the advent of AI and automation, such as consulting and software development.
In Points for Management, engineer and management consultant W. Edwards Deming notes that emphasizing high quality within your processes will reduce the number of mistakes and need for inspection, eventually leading to improved speed.
Every company will face situations where speed is of the essence. Deadlines are real and can inhibit our ability to work or perform within our best abilities. However, in day-to-day operations, with time and repetition comes efficiency, and with efficiency comes speed. Make the effort to get it right the first time to ensure quality and minimal mistakes from the outset.
Frankly, when it comes to speed vs. quality, there's no definitive answer. They're two sides of the same coin, and both are critical to providing the best possible experience to your customers. When prioritizing one over the other, take time to assess customers' exact needs and expectations, the product or service you’re offering, and relevant industry trends to help determine which is more valuable in the given context.
Ultimately, you want to optimize both. But understanding how your customers think and feel is key to optimizing the customer experience. And at the end of the day, it’s all about the customer.
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