Education

My favorite success strategy

There are many strategies you can use to become more successful, but one in particular may be the best overall. In this article executive and business coach John M McKee shares what it is, who uses it, and why it's his favorite.

 Each of the following companies / individuals have one characteristic in common. Can you guess it?

  • LG Electronics, Korean appliance and electronics giant
  • Jeff Bezos, boss of Amazon
  • Zappos Shoes, online shoe retailer
  • Indra Nooyi, boss of PepsiCo
  • Chrysler, U.S. auto manufacturer

The answer is speed. Each one of them has made speed into one of their critical success factors.

I believe that speed, more than any other single attribute, is the key characteristic that's consistently exhibited by many winning companies and individuals. Yes, there are many other important attributes one can point to when reviewing performance, but I've always considered speed to be my favorite.

I like the fact that it's a hard success factor to identify if someone is doing a competitive analysis on another organization or individual. And it's very hard to counter. Regardless of whether the race is for the next promotion, a new product, or growing a company, if a person or an organization is faster out of the gates, the others are usually forced into spending a lot of time and energy to simply catch up. It puts them off-balance, makes it harder to run on their own track.

LG Electronics, in an earlier incarnation, was two organizations. Back when I led the Home Division for the Canadian retail organization Hudson's Bay Company, they were Lucky and Goldstar. Each of them was good at certain things, but neither could compete with the really big, U.S.-based companies. Then they got together and made speed a critical element of their strategy. Now, LG is the one to watch.

Indra Nooyi is not your typical boss of an American multinational entity. First of all she's a woman, which makes her pretty unique worldwide. Her career movement has been very fast, starting in the company in 1994 and becoming president in 2001. Just as compelling is how she has reshaped an organization that seemed to eternally be a follower of the Coke gang. She's added new product lines, reorganized the entire corporation's reporting structures, pushed aggressively into eco/green products and containers with an eye on the future of the environment, and improved profits at the same time. Industry watchers have called for her to trip and fall repeatedly. But she doesn't.

Zappos Shoes came from nowhere to become the biggest online shoe retailer in the world. The boss wasn't even a shoe expert, but he thought he could emulate Jeff Bezos' success with Amazon. He had an idea that the retail world of shoes was ready for a change and recognized that speed could become a key differentiator in the footwear sector. Started in 1999, it's now a wonderful success story overcoming huge odds, difficult economies with tight money, and on-the-job learning. He's been right. The book about Zappos' roots, Delivering Happiness, is a great read for anyone in leadership.

Finally, the "new" Chrysler. When Fiat assumed management control of this legendary company about a year and a half ago, all the pundits said it would fail, perhaps bringing down both the chairman, Sergio Marchionne, and the parent company, Fiat. He immediately flattened the hierarchy so that all leaders in both companies report directly to him. Speed became a watchword, and now a nearly new/ refreshed line of product will arrive within another year.

How speedy are you? Ever watched in awe as someone raced up the organization or a competitor did things so quickly it was almost magic? Chances are they've realized the critical importance of speed. While others have meetings, plan, research, and do presentations; a few -- just a few -- simply do what seems right.  Consequently, they often reap great rewards for their decisiveness and commitment.

Now --  noodle about your approaches: in both your career and your personal life in general. Would others consider you to be fast? More importantly, ask yourself if you've been too cautious for the success of your organization or your own career.

Speed changes everything. Try it out.

John

Leadership Coach

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

5 comments
codepoke
codepoke

Certain personalities perform much worse when speed is a critical success factor. And personalities that thrive under a speed focus also show a tendency toward error. A focus on purposeful action, as opposed to red tape procrastination or fear-fed immobilization, achieves a better balance. I work in a field that can handle delay, but errors send stocks plummeting. An initiative for purposeful action would be of much more value to us than one for speed.

pgit
pgit

Just about any situation has it's 'speed factor,' and often the argument for it seems counter intuitive. For instance you would think you wouldn't want a surgeon "rushing" brain surgery on you. But the real risk of the surgery is in maintaining anesthetization and risk of infection, both of which are exacerbated the longer the surgery takes. BTW you give Chrysler a break that the media doesn't seem to want to. All I hear is that their product line is "old," they are faltering while the others are pumping out "exciting" new product lines, and at best Chrysler's new lines "aren't due out for over a year, yet." Time to buy Chrysler stock it would seem. ;)

MikeZane
MikeZane

It is hard to be speedy when you have layers and layers of paperwork and dotted lines of reporting.

kevaburg
kevaburg

It really is great that these companies have managed to use speed to push their companies harder and faster than the competitors. The problem is that speed without a well-defined goal can only lead to misery. The sort of speed we are talking about here is not without risks. It means approaching sometimes new, uncharted and sometimes hostile markets with a confidence one might not feel at the time. An example of this happening and it all went wrong is perhaps Tiny computers. It became a very fast growing business with a very (too) cheap product line and poor customer service. Speed didn't help them. Gateway computers is another. Although they were superior in almost every way to Tiny, their products, being as cheap as they were, could not long term cover the costs the company would generate. To that end, using speed as a business strategy is something that could perhaps be avoided in favour of slower but more structured and channeled methods. First get in the car and then put your foot down!

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