When one travels as much as I have over the years and one has grown a huge garden full of fresh veggies every summer (except for this summer given the drought in the midwest), there comes a point in one’s life journey where the quality of the food really does matter. I have eaten more than my fair share of rubber conference chicken covered in a bland white sauce with old dried herbs sprinkled across it, sitting next to glazed carrots, a sprig of parsley and a pile of mashed potatoes with a large pad of butter on top. Old hard breads in a basket and a glass of iced tea with lemon round out the standard conference food.
Next, when I am on the road or in an airport hurrying to my next flight, I pass an ever growing array of fast food places, promising me wholesome and healthy food. But as I step away from the counter with my bag in hand and look at what I got that took just moments to deliver to me, I am always disappointed. The pictures outside and inside the place look good. The actual product looks and tastes like it had walked all the way from Texas to the midwest, and then was pummeled into something called “food.” With fast food, fast living and even faster technology, I have become more and more disappointed with the decline in quality.
Yet, at the same time, I am very intrigued in the rise of the slow food movement and the tremendous amount of interest in food and cooking. Founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986, slow food is an international movement that strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and products plus encourage the farming of plants, seeds and livestock of a specific ecosystem. With a focus on sustainable foods and the promotion of local small businesses, slow food believes that “everyone has the right to good, clean and fair food.”
What intrigues me the most is the value of the word “slow.” In a world dedicated to living at the speed of software, I think it is time for many executives to realize that the creation and development of strategy and then an aligned organizational culture is a slow process, requiring considerable listening, thoughtful communication and deliberate patience. Rather than being accomplished quickly, strategic alignment and integration is the work of the gardener rather than the computer technician. Speed and economy of scale may be helpful with many things but in the business of developing clarity and healthy work relationships, slow and thoughtful always beats fast and efficient.