How to Measure Your Organization’s ‘Velocity’
“Ten years ago, you hired the top people from the top schools,” says Deidre Paknad, CEO and cofounder of Workboard, which offers tech-based goal-management solutions. “Your design strategy for organizational advantage was IQ.”
According to Paknad, this strategy just isn’t going to cut it in today’s business climate, where it’s all about “sprinting.”
“In the world we live in now, the very best teams – the teams that are most disruptive, the teams that are the most game-changing – are the teams that function in sprints,” Paknad explains. “They iterate fast, they learn fast, and they gain ground fast.”
Compare this to more traditional organizations, where the pace of achievement is anything but fast. Red tape, entrenched bureaucracies, endless meetings, rigid processes – all of these things contribute to the slow-motion style of operation that is endemic to many legacy enterprises.
Paknad and Workboard believe that, in order to gain business advantages today, organizations need to stop focusing on IQ and start focusing on “VQ” — their “velocity quotient.”
That’s why Workboard has released a new “real-time goal management app” that aims to give leaders, managers, and team members a clear look at where they are, where they’re going, and how they’re going to get there quickly.
VQ Vs. IQ: What Is ‘Velocity,’ Anyway?
Paknad says that the idea of VQ has been gestating since the founding of Workboard in 2013.
“We’ve spent a lot of time understanding how [velocity] plays out and getting data to support the notion of VQ, and now it’s gone from an idea to something with more structure and substance,” Paknad says. “When we look at velocity, we look at the [pace] of achievement, the pace of iteration, the pace of learning, and the pace at which a company achieves and evolves.”
Whereas “IQ” is a (hotly contested) measurement of intelligence, “VQ” measures the pace at which a company achieves, the speed at which the organization moves from point A to point B.
That still sounds kind of fuzzy, though, so it might help to take a look at what Paknad calls the “ABCs of velocity”:
‘A’ Is for ‘Point A’
Point A, of course, refers to where a person/team/company is right now.
Point A is always moving, Paknad says. That’s because the market itself is dynamic, and because an organization is (or should be) always progressing along its path. Where the organization is today is not the same as where the organization was yesterday or where it will be tomorrow.
In legacy enterprises, it can be difficult to understand exactly what point A is at any given moment.
“Companies would have monthly ops reviews and quarterly business reviews, so every month, you would get an eight-hour meeting that told you where you are now,” Paknad says. “Of course, by the time you got to the meeting, it wasn’t true anymore.”
The problem here, Paknad says, is that employees only got transparency on where they were once a month, which means that, “for 29 days, you were making really bad decisions” because you didn’t know what your point A was.
Workboard’s new app aims to solve this problem by giving every member of the organization an easy way to check on their point A at any time. Because the app can be updated in real time, point A can be adjusted and communicated at a moment’s notice.
‘B’ Is for ‘Point B’
If point A is where we are now, then, point B is where we want to go.
Just like point A, point B is constantly moving, and Workboard’s app aims to keep the organization in touch with point B at all times. For the purpose of velocity, Workboard’s app also emphasizes more immediate goals over traditional five-year plans and the like.
“In the legacy world, you would set a five-year strategy and a one-year goal. What you were trying to achieve was way out in the distance, and you couldn’t see it, couldn’t feel it. You weren’t connected to it,” Paknad says. “Now, with the app and the real-time goals, point B is 6 weeks away, or 10 weeks away, or 12 weeks away, maximum.”
‘C’ Is for ‘Capacity’
An organization’s “capacity” is, in this sense, its “brain trust.”
“It is the humans that you’ve assembled to try and build something great together, whether that’s a new product or service or whatever,” Paknad says.
Problems arise when an organization’s capacity doesn’t understand where points A and B are.
“When that happens, the capacity wanders, it’s lost, it’s not purposeful,” Paknad says.
The Workboard app allows every member of the brain trust – from the highest-level leaders to the entry-level employees – to keep tabs on point A and point B in real time.
“When the capacity knows where it is and where it is going, they can spend 100 percent of their time aligned and focused on getting to point B faster,” Paknad says.
VQ in Action
If you’re still feeling like all of this talk of velocity lacks concreteness, here’s an example of how one of Workboard’s customers uses the app, straight from Paknad:
We have a large customer who has a distributed team, and there are people on that team who, every morning, the first thing they do is look at their goals [on the app]. The second thing they do is look at the actions they have today and align those with the goal. We find a pattern where, when these people are very focused on point B, they achieve their results before the window of the goal. So, if they have a 12-week goal, they hit the target at week 10.
Now, there are other people in the same organization who never look at their goals. They just react to their mailboxes. Time and time again, those people do less than 25 percent of their plans, because they spend no time being focused on point A or point B.
(I should also note that there are three “levels” of velocity: personal, team, and organization. This example looks at personal velocity, but you can apply similar concepts to the team and organizational levels.)
According to Paknad, the whole goal of the app is to help organizations move more quickly and efficiently through increased transparency, like in the example above.
“Managers, leaders, and employees have the transparency into who is goal-aligned and where the capacity is going,” Paknad says. “It’s easy to set point B and communicate it. If it moves, you can reset and re-communicate in a second – not in a series of rotating town halls that takes up the whole quarter.”