Research consistently shows hard evidence between speed and business results. Faster companies have higher sales growth (an average of 40% higher than slower companies), and higher operating profits (an average of 52% higher than slower companies). They’re also more exciting places to work and are able to attract “bright young talented things” to their business. Strategy at speed leads to positive business outcomes.
The great management guru Peter Drucker said, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence, it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” Today, the reality is the world has changed – and will continue to change at pace. And in a changing world, the surest way to fail is to continue down the same well-trodden path. What is now required for success is a new framework, a new approach, and a new business script. In my previous article, The New Business SCRIPT, you are introduced to the six critical elements that businesses need to master in the new world of work. SCRIPT is an acronym that stands for:
- Strategy @ Speed
This article delves more deeply into the first element: The implementation of Strategy @ Speed..
Good ideas no longer cut it, you need speed
“Businesses don’t fail for lack of good ideas; they fail for lack of ability to implement them” says Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan in their bestselling book, “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done” (Random House Business). Countless good ideas and good strategies that never delivered results litter the boardrooms of business because they were implemented too slowly or not even at all.
In today’s complex, rapidly changing world, the ability to implement strategy at speed has become a competitive advantage. It is no longer enough to simply plan, formulate, and execute strategy – hesitate or take too long to implement your strategies and by the time you do, they will be obsolete and more damaging to your business than had you not implemented them in the first place.
Speed is exhilarating; it gets people pumped and keeps excitement and adrenalin flowing. However, in the wrong hands it can also be risky. Speed requires skill, courage, conviction, planning, and a great team..
The thrill of the ocean race
Ocean yacht racing provides a great analogy for the implementation of strategy at speed. In yacht racing, strategies are hugely important and are implemented in a fast paced, ever changing environment. The winners learn how to implement strategies and adapt them quickly. Thinking about strategy in the terms of yacht racing (or any fast moving sport) offers several insights and advantages over the more traditional business school approaches:
First, in yacht racing you have a destination. Think of your company’s vision as representative of that destination. This destination needs to be articulated with pinhole clarity, leaving no doubt as to where you are headed. Providing your team with a destination-styled vision also gives them a target to focus on. Most vision statements however, are wistful statements of intent – not destinations. By redefining and rethinking your vision statement as a destination, you ensure that it is memorable, inspirational, and importantly, achievable.
Second, view your company’s destination as a quest – an adventure. People are drawn to leaders who are on a quest. People; your customers, partners and staff, want to be part of achieving something bigger. Google is on a quest, so is Apple. Great companies provide a sense of being on a quest to achieve something great. Every business, big or small, has the ability to achieve something great; so be bold and communicate your vision and your destination as a quest. Imagine if JFK had launched the space race with a corporate-styled vision statement. It surely would have failed. JFK inspired a nation with a dream, a dream to go to the moon. (I will talk more about the importance of quests and visions when we cover the T in the new business SCRIPT).
Third, use your mission to break your vision down into smaller, more manageable pieces. In an ocean yacht race like the Volvo Ocean Race, your vision would be to circumnavigate the globe while your mission may be to win the leg from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi. Your mission statements should be the building blocks to achieving your destination or vision.
Fourth, imagine you are the skipper of an amazingly sleek, fast yacht. Your strategies are devised while in port but, once out in the ocean, you and your crew recognise and understand that everything can change. For example, as the skipper, you decide on a strategy that takes you north but then discovere that competitors are heading south. Do you adapt your strategy or keep with the original plan? A storm system may develop causing rough seas; do you tack around the storm or hit it head on? The key to yacht racing and implementing strategy at speed is that strategy becomes emergent and intuitive. As the conditions around you change, so does your strategy. The element that does not change is your destination (your vision, your quest); how you get there can (and in today’s fast paced competitive world should) change. Strategies are not cast in stone. Being adaptable is a key competency for implementing strategies at speed.
Finally, implementing strategy at speed successfully is all about your team. Vittorio Colao, CEO of Vodafone, puts it best: “Every company talks a lot about speed and moving quickly, but if you don’t have trust, people will say, `You ask me to be fast, but at the end of the day, if I make a mistake I’ll be killed.’ When human beings are scared, their tendency is not to press forward but to freeze in place (or to move very, very slowly).” To get the most from your people remember that implementing strategy at speed requires:
- Bold actions and brave leadership
- Rich communication
- Acting quickly, allowing for mistakes and learning through action and outcomes
- Involving everyone (strategy is now a team game, not just one played at the top level in your head office’s)
- Shared belief and shared values
Strategy at speed represents an exciting new development in management thinking. If you approach implementing strategies at speed with the right mindset, there are massive benefits for your organization that far outweigh the risks.
As I’ve mentioned before, we are living during one of the most exciting revolutionary periods in human history and different times require different scripts. Implementing Strategy @ Speed is only one of the elements you need to master in this new world of work. In my next article we will examine the C for Collaboration in the new business SCRIPT.
Please let me know your thoughts and experiences and if you have any questions please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org