By Don Southerton, May 6, 2023
Many of us are familiar with the Korean term balli balli. It translates as hurry-hurry. Actually, balli means hurry, but the word is always used in tandem, adding to the need to move fast.
I first recall hearing the word in a 1970s martial arts class; my Korean instructor commanded that we move faster in executing kicking drills.
Although we often hear that it was once a common expression and expectation—and that today many in Korea associate it with the past…for many Korean firms, balli balli is still a de facto core value— from immediately responding to requests for data to launching significant projects.
More to the point, it means things need to get done today and now, not tomorrow.
For Westerners, moving fast can often be a concern, conflicting with the Western business model of careful, meticulous study and planning before implementation. More so, if it is without careful consideration, there may be severe consequences down the road. (My Law professors constantly remind us of “future consequences” in lessons.)
This said, in contrast, one complaint/concern often voiced with frustration by my Korean clients is how slow Westerners move on projects.
In turn, my Western clients shake their heads and argue that Koreans want to jump into a project or situation with little preparation….. and balli balli seems to perpetuate a culture of waiting until the last minute.
But wait a minute balli balli is more than Meets the Eye…
Observing the Korean model for years, I have come to see where moving faster may be more than meets the eye. In fact, it’s a very entrepreneurial trait. When one shortens the time needed to complete a project, the focus is then on identifying the critical tasks that contribute the most and quickly moving on to execution.
In particular, the longer the deadline, the more time gets spent in analysis and discussions with an ever-lessening focus on the task.
The phenomenon is a corollary to Parkinson’s Law (i.e., “work expands to fill the time available for its completion”). In particular, we find that end productivity and quality are equal or higher with a shorter deadline due to greater focus.
Recognizing balli balli is a trait of Korean business, requires a balancing act…and as I note, it’s more than meets the eye.
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