Handbook of Research on Strategy and Foresight
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Handbook of Research on Strategy and Foresight

Edited by Laura Anna Costanzo and Robert Bradley MacKay

Drawing together a collection of 29 original chapters, the Handbook makes an invaluable contribution to theory and practice by stimulating disciplined, rigorous and imaginative enquiry into the relationship between strategy and foresight. Leading scholars in the field of strategic management are brought together to offer innovative and multi-disciplinary perspectives on the past, present and future of strategy formation and foresight. In so doing, they challenge research in four key areas: strategy and foresight processes; strategy innovation for the future; understanding the future; and strategically responding to the future.
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Chapter 20: Fast Cycle Capability: A Conceptual Integration

V.K. Narayanan


V.K. Narayanan* All managers appreciate, at least intuitively, that time is money. . . . Taking time out of a business gets interesting, however, when it represents a systematic change in the way a company accomplishes its work and serves its customers, then saving time can provide sustainable competitive advantage. Bower and Hout (1988: 110–11) Introduction In recent years, many authors have suggested that speed is a source of competitive advantage for firms. According to Stalk, ‘the ways leading companies manage time – in production, in new product development and introduction, in sales and distribution – represent the most powerful new sources of competitive advantage’ (1988: 41). Hill and Jones (1998) identify customer responsiveness as a fourth building block of competitive advantage, in addition to quality, efficiency and innovation. They specify customer response time to be a key element of customer responsiveness. Nayyar and Bantel (1994) ascribe central importance to competitive speed in their definition of competitive agility. According to Kevin Rollins, the vice-chairman of Dell Computer Corporation, ‘Most of the managerial challenges at Dell Computer have to do with what I call velocity – speeding the pace of every element of our business’ (1998: 81, italic added). Indeed, time-based management is one of the tools used by Boston Consulting Group to improve the performance of its clients (Micklethwait and Woolridge, 1996). Thus described, speed represents an organizational capability – often termed ‘fast cycle capability’ – that should occupy an important place in our discussions of strategic foresight. As argued by the editors in the...

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