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Edited by Laura Anna Costanzo and Robert Bradley MacKay
Chapter 20: Fast Cycle Capability: A Conceptual Integration
20 Fast cycle capability: a conceptual integration 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....
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