FASTBREAK Strategy Execution . . . An Introduction

(This is an excerpt from the introduction of my forthcoming book, FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution, which will be available in early Jan. 2013 on Amazon and Kindle)

When I was in high school in the 1960s I played Junior Varsity basketball my freshman year.  It was 1962 to be exact, and my one and only basketball season. I started out being the same height as most of my teammates and ended the season as one of the smallest.  Needless to say I didn’t win the genetic lottery for height.  Most games I sat on the bench and cheered.

But that one basketball season left a profound impression that has stuck with me throughout my professional and business career.  Our coach was a master of the “fast break”.  Basically, a fast break is a departure from the traditional cadence of play, which can best be described as: gain control of the ball, dribble slowly down towards the basket, allowing your teammates get in position, then pass the ball back and forth while looking for an opening in the defense in order to score.

A “fast break”, on the other hand, goes like this: get the rebound or the inbound ball, quickly throw it down the court to one or two teammates who have sprinted ahead of the defenders, and score two points.  The opposing team is caught flat-footed, you’ve added a quick score, and the defense is unnerved since there is no real way to defend against the fast break.  It’s an unexpected, quick strike.  Whenever we needed a lift during the game or were on the verge of being outplayed, coach would get us into fast break mode.  More often than not it turned the tide of the game in our favor.

Fast forward 15 years and I am the co-founder of an international consulting firm watching executive teams ponderously execute on their strategic plans, most based on previous year plans. In those days, a 10% improvement was considered breakthrough.

But occasionally I would get to work with a fired up, hard charging, come-from-behind organization full of hungry go-getters.  Usually they were in an exploding new industry, like global telecoms, specialty retail or computer manufacturing.  They were not bound to the past or traditional ways of doing business.  They were looking for competitive advantages anywhere they could find them, and speed was their mantra.  Double-digit growth was the ticket to entry and winning took every ounce of innovation, motivation, teamwork and courage the management team could muster.

It was during this time (early 1980s) that we began developing various consulting processes for rapid change and business transformation.  And since change was in the air (beginning with the deregulation of the telecommunications industry in the US, growing into globalization and accelerating as the digital revolution), our focus on leadership, culture and senior team alignment, helped many companies thrive and survive.

The experiences and insights gained from my 35-year journey in working with senior executive teams during times of transition are the basis for FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution.

The FASTBREAK Strategy Execution processis a unique combination of leadership alignment, culture change and performance management, lead by the senior team, that seamlessly combines both hard and soft skills (head and heart, process analytics and human psychology) into a robust and effective process for delivering business results.  A significant element of the FASTBREAK Strategy Execution process is the Strategy-on-a-Page Execution Roadmap, where the entire business strategy is visually presented in a line-of-sight approach with objectives linking to initiatives linking to metrics linking to performance outcomes.  As you will discover in this book, it is a powerful approach to strategy execution.

I have written this book for the CEO and for business leaders everywhere. For those who are driven to build sustainable, value-add, customer driven organizations. For those who look with a critical eye at all aspects of their organization. And especially for those who choose to take a hard look in the mirror. Remember, organizations are a reflection of their leadership . . .  that’s the good news and the bad news!

If you decide to tackle the challenge of improved strategy execution, then I hope these thoughts and ideas will be of use.

“To every person there comes in their lifetime that special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for the work which could be their finest hour”        ~  Winston Churchill

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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5 Responses to FASTBREAK Strategy Execution . . . An Introduction

  1. Michael McNally says:

    This is brilliant! How do we get this in front of the executive teams of the world’s top 1000 companies all the way down to small companies of $500K plus?


  2. mimijk says:

    Terrific John – and though I have very ambivalent feelings about books on leadership and management, I will buy yours as I buy all your books. The concept is spot on and as a HR consultant and retired C-level executive, I can’t see any organization that wouldn’t theoretically embrace the concepts of which you write. What I see however are corporate cultures that are either being re-defined or dismissed (which is a cultural shift in and of itself) and leadership roles that aren’t predicated upon alignment. I think that companies recognized as the recession hit that in order to stay economically breathing, the emphasis had to be external – where are the clients, attracting them, securing them – and have yet to effect the delicate balance of considering their internal health simultaneously. My exposure is only to professional service firms, so this perspective is offered with the inherent limitations of a narrowed view. I look forward to reading another John Childress book!


  3. Pingback: FASTBREAK now a Kindle eBook | John R Childress . . . Rethinking

  4. Pingback: FASTBREAK now a Kindle eBook | Principia Blog: Rethinking Leadership

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