We live in a world where stocks of knowledge rapidly diminish in value. Strategic advantage increasingly depends upon privileged access to fresh “flows” of knowledge. But here’s the catch – there are so many flows that there is a real risk of drowning in all the knowledge that is potentially available. How do executives, already pressed for time, process these flows in ways that accelerate learning and capability building?
Over the past seven years, I have been refining a new approach to strategy that has achieved significant impact with my clients. It turns much of the conventional wisdom about business strategy on its head. I have written about this approach – something I call FAST strategy – in the past, but I continue to develop the techniques and explore their implications for companies of all sizes.
In my earlier writings, I emphasized the role that FAST strategy can play in building alignment and helping to overcome organizational inertia on multiple dimensions – time horizons, across functions within an enterprise and across networks of business partners. There’s significant value here but, as I gain more experience with the use of this methodology, I have become convinced that there is an even greater value – the ability to accelerate learning and capability building.
We have built institutions that are great at efficiency, but we have paid a heavy price in terms of undermining institutional learning. FAST strategies deploy a learning architecture cutting across an entire organization. They also help to generate the productive friction required to drive and focus valuable learning.
Champions of institutional learning have often been their own worst enemies. In their zeal for learning, they seem to say that all learning is good. Well, that’s enough to make most executives cringe. There’s not enough time in the day to get work done – when is all this learning going to occur?
The real challenge is to figure out the answers to four questions:
- What learning is most valuable?
- When is it most valuable?
- How can this learning be most effectively tied to near-term operational performance improvement?
- How can this learning be spread throughout the organization so that its benefits can be amplified?
Effective strategy development is ultimately about focusing and leveraging learning across organizations. In my experience, FAST strategies do this far better than other approaches.
For those who are interested in learning more about FAST strategies, I will be doing a webinar for Strategy World on Wednesday, May 9. For more information, go here. I can assure you, it is not the approach to strategy you have come to know and love (?).