by Jane Anderson, Columnist & Featured Contributor
LOOKING AT THE TITLE of the book, my first inclination was to ask, now, does FAST mean the process is quick or is FAST an acronym that serves to identify a methodology and make it memorable? Quick is subject to interpretation, but there is definite proof that each letter of the FAST method is geared to create an environment where “both extraordinary and sustainable results” can be expected, and they can happen quickly. The formula for success is created for organizations who want something they have never had before. Remember when companies were once measured on the ‘good to great’ scale? The author asks, what if you’re already great? To have something more requires leaders to do something they have never done before. Here’s the formula:
Focus + Accountability + Simplicity + Transparency = Success
Immediately I wanted to jump over all the other chapters and see what Gordon Tredgold had to say about transparency. If there is anything that seems to get in the way of progress, hidden agendas and secret obstacles rank as the greatest impediments. I resisted though so I could get the big picture and not get sidetracked before learning the details of what makes FAST so remarkable.
“The FAST method will re-ignite your passion for what you do and why you do it because it fundamentally changes how you do it.”
To get started, Gordon answers the question “Why do we fail?” He says either we’re doing the wrong job, or we’re just doing the right job poorly. The only way to achieve excellence is by doing the right job extremely well, both effectively and efficiently. By implementing the FAST formula, four interconnected principles, Focus, Accountability, Simplicity, Transparency work together for success.
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F = Focus
Focus is setting clarification on what you want as an outcome. Focus asks questions so you get crystal clear on objectives, targets you’re aiming for, and what success looks like. We are bombarded with information, opinions, and a wide menagerie of opportunities that detract from our focus. This is why being laser focused on the prize is so powerful and instrumental in achieving desired results. Strategic focus is like the bull’s eye of assurance that you’re focusing on the right things, being committed and dedicated in working toward them. You get there one task at a time, and to that task you devote 100 percent. To lead your team to higher achievements than you’ve ever had, you must clearly visualize what success looks like.
Align your company with win! It doesn’t just happen. As the leader, be the example, stay focused on the right things, communicate, guide, listen, so your teams will benefit from how you invest your time and efforts. Harnessing the power of focus on the right things is unparalleled. Strategic focus is the foundation to staying on the fast-track to success.
A = Accountability
Accountability drives ownership. Who takes the responsibility for goals, tasks, and projects? The leader sets the example and becomes the role model for accountability. “Accountability is accepting the source of both the cause and solution to your problems.” For accountability to be mastered, select resources with the appropriate skillset and provide tools that will support their efforts. Remember accountability refers to who. Lay out stepping stones to accountability by clearly communicating expectations, desired outcomes and tasks. Individuals are empowered to take ownership and accept accountability when they have a vision and a path ahead. The author reminds us that we create our own failures when we feel powerless to determine the outcome.
Tredgold offers seven steps to instill confidence and sense of ownership in team members so they create success, not defeat. He burrows into the areas of communication, direction, mindset, accountability, milestones, metrics, and feedback. “Accountability is the circle that connects all those involved.” Our projects are prone to go off course, we are victims of distractions, but through this aspect of accountability, we are taught to have the right focus and aim at the right target. While we may have successful outcome as our immediate goal, accountability builds a foundation of trust and cooperation that extends to a much broader outcome – improved performance and enriched culture.
S = Simplicity
We long for simplicity, don’t we? Simplify, simplify, simplify. Still, we are often led to believe that simplify is synonymous with senseless, or even stupid. If it isn’t complicated, it can’t be an intelligent solution. Tredgold dispels that myth in this chapter where he proves that how we produce the end result does not have to be complex and that “simplicity is your most powerful tool.” This book teaches how to let go of excuses, dismiss what is not necessary and to stop sacrificing productivity for the plague of busyness.
Ten ways to immediately simplify your business is where readers learn to put aside ineffective practices and adopt better ways to work and make contributions that are “effective, enjoyable, and prosperous.” Read and absorb the methods taught about how to achieve goals through simplification. These 10 ways are presented in the book. Reevaluate – Prioritize – Cut distractions – Use technology – Reduce cost and work – Hire strategically – Focus on the 20 percent – Eliminate the middleman – Outsource and delegate – Unplug
“Your teams will only be inspired when they have the belief they will succeed.” Be the leader who instills in them that they will succeed. Reduce complexity, keep things simple, aim for the target, focus on the prize. Everyone will achieve goal after goal on the fast track to success.
T = Transparency
This was my favorite chapter and I think it’s because I have witnessed so little of it. As the author defines it, transparency means integrity, honesty, timeliness, and authenticity in conducting business. “It is truth upheld by accountability, and fostered by respect and cooperation.” Whether it be a sense that we humans can’t handle the truth or we feel compelled to embellish a story, studies have shown that transparency, open, unaltered truth, is rare. Leaders, again, are the role model and the voice of the organization. Transparency is like your GPS. Here’s how Tredgold describes its function in your business. You know where you are now and where you are even if you veer off course. You get constant feedback, you receive immediate warnings, you know how far you’ve gone and where your destination lies. Apply that GPS analogy to being an effective leader of teams. Transparency is key to accomplishing what would be impossible without it.
What about too much transparency? In a world where we practically run on social media fuel, we run the risk of too much information. Greater still is the fact that stating something ‘transparently’ online does not make it true. Too much information (TMI), information overload, blurry facts, near fiction, or blatant lies – all are products of sharing the known and the obscure. The author has a chapter devoted to balancing transparency with over sharing. Among his more explanatory guidelines are these questions to sort of ‘test the water’ for these characteristics of transparency. Is it authentic? Is it timely? Is it consistent? Get to know the indicators of authentic transparency and find ways to implement truth and knowledge.
Gordon Tredgold says, “Transparency is simple, but it’s not easy.“ He acknowledges that transparency is the golden ticket to a win-win situation and spells out ten unmistakable benefits: Happier workplace, Loyalty, Clarified expectations and roles, Efficiencies and productivity, Profits, Happier shareholders and regulators, Stronger values, Better reputation, Control, Gain without pain.[/message]
These four principles of FAST are interconnected forming a powerful nucleus for action. One is not superior to the other. Tredgold uses the final chapter to summarize 20 quick tips to spur you to act on the four principles:
- Focus – What
- Accountability – Who
- Simplicity – How
- Transparency – Where
To have something more requires leaders to do something they have never done before.”