Strategy & the Need for Speed

Strategy was traditionally considered to be a slow process – just like chess.  However the demands of competing in today’s markets require the opposite. Indeed the ability to speedily devise and implement strategy is itself an important determinant of business success.

Most things have speed-ed up in the world over the past number of decades.  However there are some things that have for a long time remained stubbornly slow.

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In the image above we use the familiar chess icon to denote the traditional approach to strategy – The slow approach.  That is where it can take years to develop and even longer to implement.

slow strategy is chess

A stubbornly rigid strategy cycle of 2-3 years is simply way to slow.

Planning Cycle

SLOW Strategies are for SLOW Markets – where there pace of change in competition, technology and customers behaviours are slow.

SLOW Strategies are for  SLOW Markets

But there are few slow markets.  That means the SLOW approach to strategy leaves companies vulnerable to marketplace change.

Slow to respond

 

The world is speeding up – in particular the rate of change in terms of industries, technologies and competitors.  So the metaphor for strategy is not longer the chessboard.  It is in our view more akin to F1 racing.

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Hence the metaphor of F1 – a sport where (just as in business) speed, agility, competition and winning are key.

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SLOW Strategies can be  quickly overtaken by market place changes.  So they Don’t Work In FAST Markets – where there is technological, regulatory, competitive and other forms of change.

 

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Fast paced change requires a faster approach strategy – what we call FAST strategy.   Indeed the ‘F’ in the FAST acronym stands for ‘fast growth’.

F stands for Fast Growth

After all the primary concern of senior managers is growth – sustained profitable growth.

Above Average Industry Growth & Profitability

But FAST strategy is not just about the pace of growth.  Yes that is ultimately the end measure of the success of any strategy, but the factors that contribute to that success cannot be left to chance.   In particular if the process is not FAST (as in characterized by urgency, focus, teamwork, etc.) then the strategy won’t be.   Strategies that are slow to develop tend to be slow to succeed.

slow strategies

The ‘strategy profile’ of your managers can reveal a lot about your organization and its future success.  To continue to metaphor:

 

What is your team's strategy profile?

Can your organization: set, execute & adapt strategy effectively? These are all strong predictors of strategy execution & success. Indeed your teams ability to effectively dialogue around strategy and performance (called ‘Strategic Conversations‘) is itself a key indicator of success.

Set,Execute & Adapt Strategy

If the process of strategy creation is difficult and slow, then the strategy is also likely to be difficulty and slow.  It is likely to lack urgency, focus and maybe even clarity.  It is unlikely to have the impetus to accelerate execution to ensure fast learning and agility in response to change.

What if you can only grow as fast as your strategy?

However the good news is that when it comes to accelerating growth the strategy is not just the end but also the means.  The contemporary or FAST approach to strategy is the means of accelerating businesses and teams.  Slide25

The team that can work effectively together to set out a strategy and execute it with urgency, agility, teamwork and skill is primed for success.  So the question for all managers is:  How FAST is your strategy?