FAST Leadership: Making it Work

Gordon Tredgold of Henkel  (and author of “Leadership: it’s a marathon not a sprint“) spoke today at Staffordshire University about FAST Leadership. (his blog can be found here). I’m always going to enjoy hearing someone explain how they solved problems using data to support their decision making, and Gordon provided some great examples of  data analysis and simplification of planning.

These are my notes, comments, questions and pictures of the event.]


Gordon claims to have been successful by keeping things simple. However, we must not confuse “simple” with “easy”.

Today’s challenge for all organisations is simple – do everything better, faster and cheaper!

tredgold -todayschallenge


We need to look at effectiveness and efficiency, making sure that we are doing the right job, not the wrong one, and making sure that we do that job well.

tredgold - whyfail

It’s crucial to remember that: “Revenue is vanity, profit is sanity”.

The implication here is to make sure that we are focusing on the right things – for instance there is no point in growth of  a business if no money is being made. This translates quite nicely to the business of a university.


The FAST approach to leadership consists of:

  •  FOCUS

tredgold - FAST


We need to understand clearly what it is that we aiming to do. What are our objectives? What does success look like?

Leaders need to do the right things while manager have to do things right.

Organisations tend to try to focus on too many things at once. Not all of them can be priorities, and so organisations do not prioritise properly. Ideally there should be 2 or 3 right things to focus on.

Having identified these key objectives, we must the communicate this clear focus to teams so they can have a clear vision of what success looks like.

Bonuses and reward mechanisms have to be linked to these priorities, so people will know where to focus their efforts. Having too many KPIs is the same thing as having no KPIs.


We need to know who is accountable for doing the work,  who is responsible for doing it and how will you hold them accountable.

A key question for leaders to ask is “Have we told people what we will hold them accountable for?”

We need to hold people accountable for the outcomes, not how they do it.

We need to be clear about accountability for 2 reasons: when successful, we can give rewards; if failing we can give appropriate support. We cannot give support if we don’t know who is accountable, so a clear reporting mechanism is needed.

Leaders need to hold themselves accountable.

If people are made accountable and equipped with right tools they will be successful


Experts tend to make things complex. However, real expertise is about making its simple. If you can understand it then you should be able to explain it simply. We need to challenge people to explain the solution that they are trying to implement.

People often seek and find complexity where there is none.

We need new ways of doing things that are simpler, but remember, simple is not the same as easy


People don’t mind hard work but don’t like to waste effort.

This means that we can motivate our teams if they can see how it leads to success.

We also have to be open and honest about our performance.

If we are  transparent, we  can be accountable and provide  rewards. If focused on the right things, people will become more motivated, especially if we can ensure that the attractiveness of success is greater than the resistance to change.

Organisations need to use the data available to make the right decisions.



Question and Answer Session

A couple of key points from the Q&A session

  • Everyone can do a great job, but hey need the right tools and the right authority.
  •  If you don’t want to do a good job then we need another conversation.

I asked a question about simplicity and accountability, but this was a question for us as leaders, not really for Gordon. If we have 13 strategies, some of which are 30 pages long, how can we hope to succeed. Gordon said he was already bored on hearing that there were 13 strategies.

tredgold - efficency


An engaging and authentic talk, from a leader who has really delivered success and change, interestingly using data to support decision making, and in making the priorities really simple for the organisation.

This is a challenge for universities, where we like to think of ourselves as large complex organisations, even if we aren’t that big or complex, but we have developed of culture of complexity. This is not necessarily better.

This could be a time for reflection on our strategic plan, in the light of the changed environment in which we operate, and the identification of what our two or three priorities should be with clearly defined accountabilities.