Every business works to its own rhythms or time-related cycles which over time can become embedded and create established norms that influence and often dictate not only ways of working and processes, but strategies and thinking. Sometimes these cycles remain consistent over the long-term (like seasonally driven peaks) but one of the under-acknowledged impacts of digital is that it can fundamentally change the rhythms that the business needs to operate to. When I worked for a large magazine publisher for example, there were parts of the business that worked to entrenched monthly or weekly cycles that originated from the publishing frequency of the print titles. This rhythm influenced productivity, communication, scheduling, planning, reporting and even how supporting technologies were configured.
The challenge with digital of-course, is that it turns these established frequencies on their head and when so much is dependent on (or derived from) them, the thinking, approaches and ways of working that surround them can be difficult to pull apart. The thing is though, when data really is available in real-time, weekly updates don’t cut it. When you’re only one click away from losing a customer, or you're working rapidly or iteratively to develop a product or service, monthly reviews don’t cut it either. And when employee motivation, engagement and performance is more important than ever, annual or even biannual performance reviews are simply not enough.
Some are better at responding to this than others of-course but I suspect that rather than pro-actively question the key rhythms that the business operates to up-front, for most companies it is an outcome of other changes. Yet I think it is arguably one of the most powerful drivers of change.
People can easily (and naturally I guess) associate increased frequency with increased work-load. All those reports that need to be prepared for the update meeting. All those numbers that need to be run off the system to create the reports (that no-one looks at). All that time spent on presentation. Of-course it needn’t be like that. More informally run meetings shouldn’t require formal reports or presentations. Quick updates shouldn’t need lengthy preparation or rehearsal. Alongside the question of what we need to do more frequently runs the question of what we can now do without.
Accelerating the cycles that a business works to can generate momentum, a greater feeling of change, and a real sense of progress. Like a habit, changing rhythm is one of the hardest things to relearn but it can also be one of the key catalysts for changing behaviour and so driving change.