A wonderful quality of superheroes is that they act fast. Superman can fly faster than a speeding bullet. The Flash can run fast. And while Batman relies on stealth and detective insights, he does act fast on each ability when the moment calls for it.
Now, in real business life, acting fast is more than a coveted quality. It is essential for extracting value from an activity to deliver a service or product to a customer. But why do some businesses that act fast still not succeed? The answer lies in the researched results of Strategic Speed: Mobilize People, Accelerate Execution  by Jocelyn Davis, Henry Frechette, Jr., and Edwin H. Boswell.
All three are chief officers of The Forum , an innovation consultancy. Jocelyn R. Davis is Executive Vice President, Research and Development. Edwin H. Boswell is President and CEO, specializing in consulting with senior leadership teams on executing strategic change. Henry M. Frechette, Jr., is Vice President, Research.
Strategic Speed offers the right guide for small teams that need to learn how to measure value through the speed in which value is delivered.
Highlights: How you conduct tacit actions with people affects speed
The key, asserts the authors, is people, not processes. Businesses approach speed as “doing many activities quickly,” but, the authors state, “leaders can actually increase speed of execution by adopting some practices that don’t appear to focus on speed.” The authors have researched why speed alone is not effective, and offer a number of cases to support their point, such as the following contrast of interaction types within a job framework:
“Jobs that require ‘tacit’ interactions (a high level of judgment and applied knowledge) as opposed to ‘transactional’ interactions, now make up 25 to 50 percent of jobs in developed nations…In medicine, for example, speed depends largely on the ability of physicians, nurses and administrators to build trusting relationships with patients and colleagues to access better information, to learn from every case, and a host of intangibles.”
Further highlights include:
- The people factors that drive speed are clarity (shared understanding of your situation and direction), unity (agreement on working together in the shared direction), and agility (willingness to adapt quickly).
- Successful leaders practice four qualities: They affirm strategies, drive initiatives, manage the working environment, and cultivate team experience to drive results. A table summarizes how these qualities impact the people factors.
The last few chapters delve into the aforementioned leadership qualities.
What I Liked
At 204 pages, Strategic Speed is the right length for mobile business leaders seeking to reframe how to keep up with global competition and urgency. While the book’s context is geared more for large enterprises, smaller business teams will easily see how to mobilize their team players. The test guide is straightforward, with a handy chart that summarizes what to do if a specific quality in one’s own leadership style needs improvement.
The ideas are actionable, which small business owners will appreciate. Check out the topic of conscious practice as a means to develop experience:
“Capturing and harnessing experience is difficult. It requires continuous objective analysis of one’s behaviors, thinking and emotions in relation to the results obtained. We call this conscious practice for a reason; individuals must bring experience to the forefront of their minds during daily activities….It is not about finding the time to ‘go away and practice.’ It’s about intentionally integrating practice into everyday work.”
The quick assessments at the end of several chapters provide a way to diagnose how well your business executes on strategic speed. Each assessment is on a five-point scale, with an interpretation at the end for convenience. Strategic Speed will most benefit business owners who understand their business model – how your business delivers its service and product. The examples may not be a fit for all businesses, but if you have half an imagination, you’ll figure how to take the author’s points to heart.
The authors have achieved a solid guide for implementing strategy. It’s a complement to execution-themed books such as Rework  and Smarter, Faster, Cheaper , but takes the further step of elaborating on key execution drivers. Its size makes the insights accessible, but it contains the right research to teach readers what truly matters in getting things done. If there is one thing you should do fast, it’s to get a hold of your own copy of Strategic Speed, and become a hero for your own organization.