“Superfast, Lead at Speed.
How pace can drive performance”
by Sophie Devonshire and reviewed by Giles Lury
“There is a difference between being in a hurry and being in a rush” says Sophie Devonshire and so while her book Superfast is all about leaders’ need for speed in a rapidly accelerating world, it’s really a guide to achieving sensible speed.
She uses author and personal development specialist W. Timothy Gallwey’s analogy of the perils of working at breakneck speed to make her point. Gallwey talks about the dangers of ‘driving a Maserati without brakes’ and how ‘when we are running on adrenaline generated by one crisis after another, it can be very hard to find the brakes, much less want to apply them’.
Devonshire’s book sets out useful strategies, tips and techniques for delivering pace profitably, even when some of that advice sounds at first counter-intuitive.
Chapters include how it is important to manage your energy not just your time, how having a clear and well-embedded purpose can help accelerate your business, how you can structure your business to increase speed, the power of editing and why focus can be faster, the benefits of truly knowing your team and as importantly knowing yourself, tips on hiring and firing – hire smart, fire fast, the helpfulness of honesty, how it can be smart to stop and the power of the pause, and a chapter on the three D’s – decide, delegate and deliver.
Each chapter ends with a succinct summary and suggested key actions; “The Espresso Takeaways”.
Along the way she introduces some powerful concepts like ‘TQ’, ‘critical friends’ ‘constructive considered candour’, ‘creative abrasion’ and ‘to lead, read’.
TQ is a companion to IQ and EQ and it is ‘time intelligence’. A concept coined by Simon Devonshire (no relation to the author) who defines it as ‘an innate, intrinsic, subconscious, almost fanatical addiction to the monitoring of time and its commercial practice and commercial performance results over time.’ In answering the obvious question about when the right time is, Devonshire quotes Jeff Bezos “most decisions should be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow.”
Critical friends are the antidote to yes men and women. Devonshire quotes a Heidrick & Struggles report which emphasized the importance of having trusted challengers “One of the most important things is having people around you, telling you how wrong you are”.
Constructive considered candour is similar to ‘brutal truths’ but with the added benefit of the consideration of how those truths can help you or your business overcome issues. As someone who has long championed ‘constructive challenges’ it resonated well with me.
Creative abrasion is another antidote, this time to the old adage that all ideas are good ideas and that you must treat new ideas gently. It is an idea I’ve read about in other books, notably ‘Creativity. Inc.’ by Ed Catmull (of Pixar and Disney fame), but it is a very useful one.
Superfast: Lead at Speed is available at all good book stores and on Amazon
Giles Lury is a Director at The Value Engineers and author of books including “Inspiring Innovation” and “How Coca-Cola Took Over the World: And 100 More Amazing Stories About the World’s Greatest Brands“.