In this engaging dialogue with Anne Morriss and Frances Frei, the authors of Move Fast and Fix Things, we delve into the essentials of leadership, the importance of urgency, and the transformative power of technology. Discussing their book, Morriss and Frei emphasize the need for quick action and effective problem-solving in today’s fast-paced world.

Hello Anne Morriss and Frances Frei, why did you write this book… now?

Anne Morriss and Frances Frei: No one has ever said to us “I wish I had taken longer and done less.” What we do hear again and again is the opposite. We wrote this book to give people the tools to take less time to do more of the things that will make their relationships, teams, and organizations stronger. We also wanted to rehabilitate speed’s bad reputation, which has been blamed unfairly for organizational dysfunction. The reckless ethos of “move fast and break things,” which defined Silicon Valley for decades, gave speed a bad name, but speed wasn’t the problem. Lack of empathy and comfort with collateral damage were the issues. In fact, speed is an essential variable of change leadership. The most effective leaders we know solve problems at an accelerated pace while also taking responsibility for the success and wellbeing of their customers, shareholders, and employees. They move fast and fix things.

An extract from your book that best represents you?

A. M. & F. F.: A cornerstone of our work is that leadership is the practice of imperfect humans leading imperfect humans. If you accept this as a reasonable starting point, then it follows that any collection of us builds imperfect organizations. In this book, we’re inviting you to get curious about those imperfections. Only when we drag our fingers along the floorboards of our experiences, only when we go in search of where good intentions have fallen short, only then can we begin the work of making things better. As we reveal in the pages ahead, we find this to be a deeply optimistic pursuit. We’re also inviting you to be impatient about progress. We designed this book to be a fast, fun guide to solving hard problems and accelerating the pace of change. It’s a playbook that’s designed to free up the resources that make problems solvable—things like energy, creativity, even joy. These are things that can feel difficult to access right now as we all try to live and to lead through historic levels of uncertainty. And yet, without them, we have little chance of thriving.

The trends that are just emerging and that you believe in the most?

A. M. & F. F.: The only thing we really know about the future is that we won’t be expecting a lot of it. That said, we’re confident that AI will indeed be a transformative technology. What’s exciting to us about AI is its ability to democratize access to information and ideas. For example, for too long the best ideas on leadership have only been accessible to the people who need them the least, the ones who already have power, influence, and access to capital. AI will make it possible to empower everyone else. One cultural trend that will be transformative is the growing recognition that trust really is at the center of our ability to function as civilized people. Without trust, as our teenage son would say, we’re “cooked.” We rely on laws and contracts as safety nets, but even those systems are ultimately built on trust in the institutions that enforce them. In Western democracies, we’ve taken trust for granted in some ways, and we’re now waking up to how essential it is to the functioning of healthy societies. Our task now as citizens is to learn how to build and rebuild trust with urgency, a question we think about a lot in our work.

If you had to give one piece of advice to a reader of this article, what would it be?

A. M. & F. F.: Embrace the power of now. Another word for this is urgency. Urgency has suffered from speed’s bad reputation but urgency at its best cuts through the complexity and noise of our organizational lives. It releases a system’s energy and makes it clear to everyone that the problems you’re solving are important. Urgency recognizes that there is such a thing as being too late. In our experience, most big organizational problems deserve a more urgent response, a metabolic rate that honors the frustration and mediocrity and pain of the status quo. People often ask us about the right timing for big change and our answer is almost always the same: How about now? Now is a great time to accelerate progress.

In a nutshell, what are the next topics that you will be passionate about?

A. M. & F. F.: We want to be part of this revolution in access to ideas. Too much of the insight leaders need right now has been hidden behind the gilded doors of MBA classrooms or passed on in hushed tones from one elite leader to another. To change that, we need to find new ways to help anyone willing to step up to leadership, and emerging technologies will make that possible. Our mission is to give people the tools to pivot, learn, and evolve at the speed of change. We’ve been able to do some of this through our books and our Fixable podcast, and we’re now exploring other formats and media as well. Our next book will be focused on sharing the secret memos of leadership with anyone who has the ambition to tackle complex problems in this disruptive, uncertain time. We’re increasingly convinced that our ability to collectively thrive depends on getting many more people “off the leadership bench” and onto the playing field of impact and progress.

Thank you Anne Morriss and Frances Frei.

Thank you Bertrand Jouvenot.

The book: Move Fast and Fix Things, Anne Morriss and Frances Frei, Harvard Business Review Press, 2021.