We have FAST teams for fighting terrorist threats, for finding distressed firefighters, for countering drug-related crimes. These are the people we count on in high-risk situations to respond with unprecedented speed on our behalf. Fortunately, your company doesn’t have to be in dire circumstances before you send in such an elite tactical unit. You just need to have a specific chunk of value you must quickly capture.
What makes a business team “FAST”?
FAST teams in business mobilize top talent to urgently realize a very specific goal that will move the whole company closer to its ambition. Five things distinguish these rapid intervention crews from other high-performing business teams.
- A FAST Charter
- FAST Culture
- The /move Methodology
Moving a group of people into action with velocity requires a charter that declares why they are moving into action and what they are going after. A FAST team’s why will ideally connect with one of the company’s strategic objectives. The what will be the team’s “prize”, that chunk of value you want them to create and capture. Three routes exist to the prize. Reduce costs, run the company better, or accelerate growth. Defining up front which route a FAST team is taking and what decisions team members have the right to make along the way speeds up their progress towards the goal.
Many high-performing teams lack definitive deadlines and expiry dates. No burning deadline no expiry date equals no sense of urgency. No sense of urgency and performance measurement, over time, can get blurred.
FAST teams come with their own sense of urgency built in. They have expiry dates (anywhere from six to nine months), pressing milestones, adequate (but not excessive) budgets, and clear and current KPIs.
The inverse of Parkinson’s Law holds here. When you compress the time people have to complete urgent work, you increase their focus on what really needs to get done. The irrelevant drops away. To attain the prize in time, FAST team leaders set an appropriate pace and cadence for the work to be done. Regular meetings create the pulse of the team. Unambiguous KPIs keep everyone on track.
The capacity of a team is a function of the power of your players.
That is why FAST team players are often hand-picked by the CEO. First, the team needs a leader who can accelerate value creation and keeps people moving forward together at top speed. A leader who has the ability to motivate and align talents who may traditionally take different approaches to the work to be done. A leader who can transparently guide them through the lifecycle of their work together. Matching the right senior executive leader to the right FAST team is not a job the CEO can delegate.
Second, the team leaders need to bring together the right mix of internal subject matter experts, functionaries and, when necessary, external specialists. In the normal course of events, team leaders do not normally have access to people in different functions, areas and regions of their company. Here again, the CEO plays an influential role: they are often the only person in the company with the authority to pull people away from their existing roles and responsibilities and reassign them to a FAST team.
Third, an influential executive sponsor, either the CEO or another C-suite executive, is needed to clear the way for the FAST team to move quickly. This champion must have the credibility and ability to influence their peers and remove organizational roadblocks that slow down or stop forward momentum.
A FAST team exists for only one purpose: to realize its charter in a short period of time. That necessitates a culture of speed and accountability. Insufficient communication skills and vaguely defined roles and responsibilities often get the blame for high performers advocating, yet failing to implement this kind of team culture.
FAST teams succeed where others have failed in this by establishing clear role responsibilities and cultural “norms” up front.
- Ground rules for behavior. The team’s “code of conduct” not only aligns with the company’s values. It also fits their goal and membership.
- Adaptation mindset. Instead of resisting problems, team members welcome them as opportunities to change and adapt.
- Acceleration and momentum focus. Rarely will you see a FAST team member standing by while their colleagues are working. This is not about developing habits of knee-jerk responses, but of responding quickly and effectively to requests and changing circumstances.
- Open dialogue. Rather than debate differences of opinion, members respectfully engage in entertaining diverse perspectives and new ideas together. No one person is “right”, no one person is “wrong”. As a group, they innovate solutions that go beyond what’s been done before.
Each FAST team member can play full out when they know exactly what the rules of the game are, what people are counting on them for, and how their contributions will drive the team’s efforts.
The Mobilization Method
The real secret to FAST team success lies in the /move methodology. This proven approach to mobilizing an entire organization can easily be applied at the team level to each of the company’s value-creating initiatives. For each “prize”, the appropriate team can clarify their strategic choices, select specific actions that will deliver on those choices, identify gaps in the team’s capabilities and culture, and choose how they will mitigate any associated execution risks. With this clarity of focus, they can manage their resources and energy more effectively. And they can also execute more efficiently.