Does mindfulness help deliver ‘at pace’?

We have a competency statement we are asked to evidence in our performance reviews called 'Delivering at Pace'. We're urged to 'deliver timely performance with energy and taking responsibility and accountability for quality outcomes.' This came to mind in a discussion I was having with colleagues from the Organisation Design Forum the other evening. We were debating three questions:

  • What have you been noticing that's novel or significant in your circles?
  • What are the implications you see to organization design?
  • If you had a message to the organization design practitioner community right now, what would it be?

One of the things that I'd noticed recurring during the week was the concept of 'mindfulness'. I'd just read a report from Unum on The Future Workplace. In the researchers' view the future workplace is mindful, collaborative, ageless and intuitive. They say that:

'As well as needing to be energised to work for longer workers are increasingly feeling overwhelmed by the tools and means of communication they have to use on a daily basis. … they want to be able to 'shut off' for a while. … 'Overload creep' is a major factor … British workers feel they are expected to be 'always on' … which significantly increases stress levels.' There's then a lengthy section on developing a workplace that is 'mindful, tranquil, sublime and that nurtures the health and performance of the mind'.

I'd also just been invited to 4 x 90 minute sessions on mindfulness being run for a team I work with. It seems that I am expected to attend. My heart quailed and I felt defensive because
a) I had no idea of the content
b) I couldn't choose the instructor/time/place
c) I am too busy 'delivering at pace' and additionally racing to keep up with emails, twitter, huddle, Trello, what's app, snapchat, lync and collaborate (all channels that we use to communicate in order to 'deliver at pace' in my workplace) to attend a mindfulness course and do the 'homework' it requires
d) I do my own mindfulness via running, exercise classes, and journaling.

So in the discussion with ODF colleagues answering the first question my observation was on pace v mindfulness. Are they compatible or do you sacrifice one for the other? Pace is a very significant word in my organisation and is a fairly novel concept in our long history. But now, we are constantly being reminded of the need to deliver 'at pace' often by emails with the word 'urgent' in the subject heading and the high priority red exclamation mark delivery icon. What's significant about mindfulness is the possibility that it's a bandwagon phenomenon albeit with seeds in research and neuroscience but now a big money-spinner. I'm not sure it is 'novel' as it has a long history in meditation but it is novel in the sense that organisations are jumping on it.

In answering the second question I am of the view (at least in my current thinking) that there's an inherent workplace tension between delivering at pace implying very little time availability and mindfulness – which seems to require a lot of time to practice it. Or does the fact that one is 'mindful' mean that delivering at pace takes less time. (Though what happens to the flood of communications which I'm guessing remains the same?). Assuming a tension there is a big implication for organisation design. How do we design both the reflective space and the fast delivery?

Just sticking with mindfulness and pace, in answering the third question there's a message about not responding with a 'quick-fix' solution for a client but with a considered response – but how to do this with what is likely to be a requirement to deliver it right now is about influencing, credibility, expertise (and mindfulness).

What's your view – is mindfulness incompatible with delivery at pace? Let me know.