In my book, First & Fast, I set out six-speed drivers, as set out in the chart above. As I reflect on these drivers, however, I’ve realised that two are more important than the others. In fact, if these two are missing, the impact of the other four drivers, no matter how well they are delivered, is severely limited.

The two key enablers are:

  1. A high-speed culture; and

  2. Strategic focus

A high-speed culture provides the fuel for organisational speed and agility. Without a genuine environment that promotes, believes and demands speed, you will never be able to accelerate the pace of change in your business.

For instance, I once ran a process improvement initiative at a major UK retailer. We did some great work, identifying ways that the processes could run both faster and at lower cost. The changes were implemented, but the attitude of the leadership team had not changed. The decision-making processes did not improve, slowing down the entire system. A poor culture had inhibited organisational changes designed to increase speed.

Contrast that experience with what is happening at Amazon. Delivery speed is both a strategic priority and a core belief of the entire Amazon organisation. In just the last week, I have seen articles on Amazon’s purchase of its own jet – see here – and a new, faster picking system – see here. That’s on top of its development of delivery drones. These process and organisational improvements aren’t independent of the Amazon culture; they are driven by it.

The second enabler is strategic focus.

This is a sub-set of my speed driver of ‘Rapid-Fire Strategy’ and is based on two critical elements: a clear strategic goal and a focused strategic agenda. If the culture injects the fuel for speed, strategic focus delivers the grip and traction.

In First & Fast, for example, Richard Baker, the former CEO of Boots the Chemists, highlighted the importance of strategic focus to his transformation of the business. As he put it, “You can’t spray and sprint!”

Baker identified five strategic priorities for Boots, which he consistently pursued over the three years of his tenure. A consistent, focused agenda enabled everyone across the business to understand what was ‘mission-critical’, what they should be working on and what was no longer important. The business had stopped chopping and changing its priorities and the pace of delivery quickly began to increase.

If you can embed these two critical enablers, you will have the foundations for faster innovation, higher-paced implementation, a slicker, more agile organisation and the ability to let your customers aid your navigation. Without these two enablers, your ability to rise to the challenge of today’s dynamic, unpredictable markets will be severely limited.

What steps do you need to take to embed a high-speed culture and clearer, strategic focus into your business, so that you can then transform your organisation’s speed and agility?


© Stuart Cross 2016. All rights reserved.