Strategic Speed - Mobilize people, accelerate execution
by Jocelyn R Davis, Henry M Frechette Jr. and Edwin H Boswell

ISBN: 978-1-4221-3152-7, Publisher: Harvard Business Press, 2010
Reviewed by: Julie Garland McLellan*

Boards are held accountable for strategy. Good boards are active in the development of strategy but they are rarely involved in the implementation of strategy; it is during implementation that most failures happen.

This insightful book gives some clear indicators that will assist boards to look into how strategy is being implemented (rather than just looking at what strategy is being implemented). The focus on speed as well as engagement gives the writing a hard, practical edge that is lacking from many other books about engagement. As the CEO of Tata Sky, Vikram Kaushik, says in the book "what matters is the sense of personal responsibility, the sense of involvement, the importance given to motivation, the importance given to a pretty rigorous appraisal system."

The first of the key concepts presented is the need to manage strategy as a series of projects and to instil project management skills at all levels in the organisation. This was followed by the concepts of measuring strategic value in terms of the time taken to obtain a positive result (time to value) and the quantum of that result over the implementation period (value over time). These two concepts, presented in the book to assist management, will prove essential tools for boards when given the task of prioritising strategic initiatives to gain most use from scarce financial, human, or other resources.

The book also focuses upon enabling strategic speed by enhancing clarity, agility and unity. A simple 'strategic speedometer' is included in the book and will assist Boards to determine how their company compares with the best companies analysed in the research that underpins the book. Mercifully the book does not dwell upon the intricacies or rigour of the research but gets quickly into its practical application. Clear performance bands are established and the book then provides strategies for helping to improve the score and position of a company in its aim of being amongst the better performers in the category.

Questionnaires throughout the book assist the reader in grounding the concepts firmly in his or her own reality. The anecdotes are predominantly from large multinational companies but the ideas translated well to my own, smaller, organisations.

It is a fact that success in business does not always go to the best thinkers; it goes to the fastest implementers. This book will help your Board to gauge whether your management team is creating value faster and more sustainably than your competition. The tools are simple and can be applied by a single director to gain insights between meetings as well as by a whole board or management team as part of a corporate process.

Business may be getting more competitive but there is no rule against using performance enhancing books and, that being so, I am certainly going to use this one!

* Julie Garland McLellan is a professional non-executive director, board and governance consultant and mentor. She is the author of "Dilemmas, Dilemmas: practical case studies for company directors'", "The Director's Dilemma", "All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector" and numerous articles on corporate strategy and governance.