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Lead to a Breakthrough: Develop a Vision of the Most Helpful Perfection as a Goal

Dec 24, 2007
A leader can do something that no one else can do: Set a higher standard that informs, energizes, and directs people toward the biggest breakthroughs they can make.

By comparison, most leaders settle for trying to do a little bit better than last year. That's fine if you want to just try to survive.

If you want to make a breakthrough, you'll have to learn to imagine and describe the best anyone is ever likely to be able to accomplish.

The steps for creating a breakthrough solution (accomplishing 20 times more with the same time, effort, and resources) are listed here:

1. Understand the importance of measuring performance.

2. Decide what to measure.

3. Identify the future best practice and measure it.

4. Implement beyond the future best practice.

5. Identify the ideal best practice.

6. Pursue the ideal best practice.

7. Select the right people and provide the right motivation.

8. Repeat the first seven steps.

This article looks at practicing to become more effective in step five.

Combine Perspectives from Similar Organizational Ideal Best Practices in New Ways of Operating

If one ideal practice is powerful, imagine the impact of combining insights from more than one such ideal practice.

Here's an example: Orchestras perform complex pieces with amazing coordination and few errors. Military units march with impressive precision in keeping the same time and foot forward.

The principle behind both kinds of successful coordination is that these groups have practiced a particular sequence until they can do it very easily and receive a signal (from a conductor or a drill instructor) that provides time and motion coordination. During practices, the signal giver tells people when they make mistakes and repeats those sequences until they are done correctly.

Now let's apply that principle.

Let's say that you want to launch a new product with a complex series of marketing and sales efforts. How might you create such a result?

You need to start by playing the role that the musical composer does in writing down everything that needs to be done in the right order. That overall plan is like the score a conductor will use to coordinate everyone. The plan should include the speed, timing, and location of what needs to be done. Then the parts need to be copied out so that people know their roles and have instructions to follow. Finally, you need to practice the execution of that plan until it comes easily and perfectly.

By comparison, most organizations don't prepare such plans, have no practices, provide no feedback to those who make mistakes so they can improve, and don't have anyone playing the role of sending a central signal. Is it any wonder these organizations don't coordinate their new product launches very well?

Combine Perspectives from Dissimilar Organizational Ideal Best Practice Principles in New Ways

The potential for combining ideal practices is improved if you consider places where two or more ideal group practices are based on different principles that could be combined to create a breakthrough for your organization.

Here's an example to help you understand this process: Jazz combos improvise playing music. No one knows exactly who will play next or what they will play within a piece. The process works because the combo practices a lot and learns to closely observe what one another is doing so they smoothly adjust to each other.

Postal services rarely fail to deliver mail that is entrusted to them. That's true both because postal workers understand the importance of the mail (they are customers, too) and roles are clearly defined in ways that reduce the risk of mail being lost.

Let's combine and apply these two principles. Assume that you want your organization to develop more flexibility by ensuring that each person learns how to do at least one other person's job who works in the same unit. In that way, if someone is out for a day, work proceeds smoothly.

Using the jazz combo example, you might give workers the opportunity to choose what other job they learn. Only if some jobs were not going to be learned would you need to make assignments.

To ensure that the learning takes place, you could set practice times when each person spends half the session helping someone else learn and the other half learning.

To be sure that coordination did not break down, you could ask those who have the jobs to write out steps for the tasks so that the substitute would not forget an important step. To make that forgetfulness even less likely, you should schedule some time where each substitute spends a day on the receiving end of the work in order to appreciate (as postal employees do) what it's like to rely on what's done.

Such cross-training usually goes very slowly in most organizations. What's missing? Usually, the cross-training doesn't even begin until after a supervisor reviews an employee and decides to recommend cross-training. As a result, few have completed cross-training at any given time.

Regular opportunities to learn aren't scheduled in many organizations, so the training proceeds slowly. Because the employee may have no interest in learning the other job, the employee may avoid the learning opportunity altogether. It's even rarer to see the results of such a job as a customer either internally or externally.

Naturally, if you can combine three principles, that's even better. And combining four principles is better still.

How might you do that?

Start by developing a list of at least 50 examples of where groups routinely perform near perfection. Then, look for the principles behind each of those examples. Finally, begin combining the principles in new ways.

Leader, your breakthrough awaits!
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is coauthor of six books including The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, and The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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