Every business has two critical needs: a winning strategy that will achieve future competitive advantage and financial success, and the ability to execute that strategy fast enough to beat competitors to the desired markets. The strategy and supporting execution must be tightly integrated or they will not yield the desired results. The most common problem in business today is that the integration between strategy and execution is either weak or nonexistent. The next most common problem is that companies tend to be good at only one of the two. A third problem is that both the strategy and execution often are rooted in the past or the present and fail to recognize the need for change to succeed in the future. Fast-break management combines a winning strategy, the talent and execution needed to support the strategy, and the integrated transition that is so critical. The "fast break" basketball metaphor illustrates how this combination of strategy and execution, occurring at breakneck speed, not only scores points quickly, but also demoralizes the opposition. When a fast break is executed properly in business, it leaves competitors wondering what hit them. This is the way dynamic industry leaders win again and again.
- Southwest Airlines Co. turns airplanes around on the ground much more rapidly than its competitors. Its short ground time and fast execution of between-flight tasks makes its equipment more productive and the airline more profitable -- even with much lower fares, especially on the short routes.
- Dell Computer Corp. turns minimal inventories into mass-customized personal computers in record time, taking advantage of deflating component prices and avoiding excessive-inventory penalties. Its strategic model, based on direct sales and rapid execution, offers both price and delivery advantages over traditional supply chains that include resellers.
- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. opens new stores and conducts smaller-scale tests much faster than competing retailers -- and then makes adjustments for optimum profitability. Its strategy is supported by an immense database that provides a knowledge-based advantage, leading to greater speed with less risk.