The Five F’s of Success

The Power and Promise of the Five F’s to Success

Fast               Focused                   Flexible        Friendly        Forward Thinking


Rosabeth Moss Kantor, of Harvard University, relates a story about the first landing of UFO’s on our planet and our first contact with an advanced civilization.  They were so advanced that they were 30 minutes ahead of even the fastest human on earth.  This means they will always be first in line for every event, they will never be late for a meeting, and they will be first to introduce new innovations and discoveries.  This is profound!  It is the 30-minute competitive advantage in this fast-paced game where you do not know where the changes are coming from next; it is the first-mover advantage of being able to move very, very fast. And that requires a kind of organization and kind of leadership.

To be fast, information and communication must flow very openly and very freely throughout the organization.  If this does not happen, the aliens (read competitors) will always be the winners.

Fast Means:

  • Being nimble
  • Being decisive
  • Being proactive
  • Taking charge with an action orientation
  • Taking appropriate risks
  • Setting goals, deadlines


The second “F” is to be very, very focused on a few deliverable goals that everybody sees are important.  There are three important elements of focus.  It is the focus of strategy, focus via leadership, and focus on the quality and skills of those employed.  Organizations that maintain a clear focus and know specifically what business they are in, will win the game where others lose their focus.  In brief, make sure everyone keeps the main thing the main thing.

Obviously, one of the ways that focus can be communicated in the organization is through the acts of leaders-leaders who let everybody in the organization know what the high priority goals are so that they can make sure that their own activities are tuned to the focus.

Focus Means:

  • Being strategic
  • Setting priorities
  • Having a strong sense of purpose
  • Communicating vision/mission
  • Eliminating distractions
  • Being logical/orderly


The third part of succeeding in the future is to be very, very flexible- to be able to change tactics and approaches if the first one does not work.  Think about the qualities of an organization that demonstrates flexibility, one where it is permissible to say, “we may have made a mistake, let’s do it differently.”

It requires a few things.  It requires people who are broadly, rather than narrowly, educated in their jobs.  It requires people who see their jobs as improving the organization and not always focusing on the narrow tasks assigned at the moment.  This requires environments where people feel ownership and are rewarded for entrepreneurial thoughts and actions.  Finally, a culture of pride, a culture where people believe they have good ideas, who believe their leaders will listen to their good deals, who believe their organization will prevail, even in tough times.

Flexible Means:

  • Embrace change
  • Being resilient
  • Open to influence
  • Cutting red tape
  • Avoiding “black or white” thinking
  • High tolerance for ambiguity
  • Comfortable dealing with paradoxes


The fourth principle for winning the game in the future.  This principle is being relationship-oriented, befriending all the stakeholders.  This orientation leads to developing partnerships with customers, partnerships with employees, and partnerships with suppliers/vendors.  This kind of organization creates an integrative culture.  Integrative because people pull together, rather than pull apart.  There is a vision, a focus, and a unity that unites it all.

Friendly means:

  • Being approachable
  • Being cooperative
  • Providing feedback
  • Being thoughtful
  • Being enthusiastic
  • Being optimistic
  • Being a good communicator
  • Valuing the ideas of others
  • Recognizing interdependence


Forward Thinking

The last principle for a successful organization is forward thinking. Forward thinking is preparing to not only avoid pitfalls and failures, but to also achieve growth and success through innovation. Think of yourself as a trend setter – leading by example to bring your Vision to life. Always pushing the envelope to be sure that you are moving your organization in the direction of the Vision. Challenge the process when appropriate.

Forward Thinking means:

  • Unify Team around one Vision
  • Learn “Best Practices” from others
  • Innovation requires 3 tries
  • Take risk and experiment
  • Abandon Control
  • Allow time for forward thinking

In summary, a good way to start a fast, focused, flexible and friendly organization is to be receptive to new ideas, move faster, cut red tape, give more praise and recognition of achievement, encourage open communication and sharing of information, and give advanced warning when plans or directions are changed.

Give people the flexibility to invent the new solution to the problem we don’t even know is coming.  Finally, portray an attitude at the top that says we are always learning.

The Five F’s

Rosabeth Moss Kantor


Fast………………………………………Nimble, Responsive, Proactive

Focused……………………………….Strategic, aligned with the Vision, Sets priorities

Flexible…………………………………Resilient, Open to Influence, Embraces Change

Friendly…………………………………Approachable, Gives Feedback, Enthusiastic/Optimistic

Forward Thinking……………….Unifying a Team, Take Risks, And Experiments, Abandon Control

























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