Speed and velocity is a mental model drawn from physics. Speed is how fast you are moving, velocity is how fast you are moving in a specific direction.
Speed is measured as a scalar which is a quantity that is fully described by a magnitude of numerical value in relation to a metric e.g. miles per hour, number of emails/meetings/calls per day.
Velocity is measured as a vector that is a quantity that is fully described by BOTH a magnitude of numerical value in relation to a metric AND a direction. e.g miles per hour heading south towards New York / London etc. number of emails/meetings/calls per day to the achievement of a specific milestone to the completion of a project or other clearly defined objective.
Let's move beyond physics and apply this to everyday life and in the context of the purpose and objectives of this site: namely
So let us reframe speed and velocity as:
Speed = Rate of Activity or "Busyness" Per Day - for example, over the past 24 hours, how many emails/messages you have initiated or responded to, how many calls you have made, how many meetings you have attended, how much planning and research you have engaged in.
Velocity = Rate of Activity Per Day Measured As Achieved Milestone[s] Towards Your Specific Objective - how far has this activity and "busyness" progressed you towards your overall objective?
All too often we confuse activity with accomplishment, and this is especially prevalent in the corporate working environment.
The politics of perception in corporate working life are sufficiently distorted that your "busyness" is seen and celebrated as a badge of honour - hence "the long hours culture".
In my past experiences in corporate life in the UK my colleagues and I coined a phrase:
The 3 levels of wanting
Only the first category had anything to do with veloclty, the rest was just varying degrees of "busyness" sufficient to throw up a "chaff screen" and deflect unwelcome senior management attention!
In "Understanding Speed and Velocity: Saying “NO” to the Non-Essential" Shane Parrish provides some excellent examples of how and why he learned to say no to the non-essential requests that were put to him by his boss when he was working in the field of cyber-security, and he makes the obervation that:
"...saying yes to everything is a quick road to mediocrity.."
Shane offers the following advice:
"You need to distinguish between tasks that offer a lot of speed and those that offer velocity.
Here are three ways you can increase your velocity:
Most material that I have seen on this mental model focuses on saying "No" to non-essential requests and activities.
The locus of control here is external in that it relates to things that are external to you and your point of focus.
I agree with this, but in my experience there is an additional dimension to this, and this is to do with task optimisation.
With task optimisation the locus of control is internal # This is about knowing the point at which focused "busyness" does not increase velocity and starts to impede it. # This is about knowing when an essential task becomes inessential.
With task optimisation the locus of control is internal
# This is about knowing the point at which focused "busyness" does not increase velocity and starts to impede it.
# This is about knowing when an essential task becomes inessential.
Let me illustrate this point with the example of the creation of this article and its posting on this webpage.
I am currently working to a schedule of creating and posting one webpage per day.
In order to achieve this successfully I need to accomplish a series of tasks in a specific sequence and within a defined time window.
So, this morning I knew that my subject for today was "speed and velocity". To achieve my objective for today there are 3 main tasks.
1] Reading and research of subject material for this article and considering my own real life experiences in this area.
2] Drafting and formatting the material.
3] Posting this material as a webpage.
I have found from considerable experience of this process that I need about two to three hours for steps 2 and 3, but unless I am careful step 1 can take far longer than it should. This morning I found myself getting drawn deeper and deeper into the physics of this subject, which as a non-academic I found interesting and challenging.
After a while I realised that I was wasting time and continued research was beyond the scope of this article. So, in practical terms, I had reached the optimum allocation of resource and effort that was required to complete step 1.
I was able to do this because I have extensive experience
of this process and I have an established set of criteria that enables
me to make this call.
Return from "Speed and Velocity" to: Mental Models