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Stop Stalling and Make Breakthroughs Instead by Banishing Habits That Slow Down Improvements

Dec 25, 2007
A businessman pondered how to grow his profits. He traveled the world looking for new products and lower cost suppliers. He ran every kind of sales promotion he could. But profits just got lower and lower every year. In fact, the harder he tried to improve the worse matters got.

A friend visited one day and looked at what the businessman had been doing: He was continually adding new items that offered little profit and attracted few sales. In the meantime, he was neglecting to keep in stock his highest profit items that were in great demand.

The friend noted that profits would expand by ten times if the business man got rid of 95 percent of his items and kept the rest of the high profit offerings in stock at all times. With the time that he saved, the businessman could also take a vacation every month.

Are you like that businessman in pursuing habits that are hurting your profits and personal life?

Stalls are bad habits that delay progress in accomplishing 20 times as much by using the breakthrough solution process. Stalls are harmful because they drain time and attention away from more productive activities and also set up barriers to improvements. In this article, you'll ask seven questions that will help you identify and overcome your stalls.

You will be more successful in this activity if you prepare yourself. If you are not familiar with all of the current steps involved in the performance area or activity you want to improve, be sure to take the time to observe and participate in that performance area so your thinking is influenced by the facts rather than by opinions or out-of-date information. If possible, have those who work in the area share their observations independently of your own thinking. In addition, check your answers with those who are involved in the performance area.

1. What are the causes of avoidable delays?

A good way to begin is to assume that you are personally going to do all of the steps involved in the performance area or activity you want to improve. Then, find the resources, knowledge, skill and information to do that work in the fastest, most effective way.

After you have identified how you would do the activity yourself with the right resources, see what current delays can be eliminated. Then, determine what would have to change in order to eliminate those delays.

Here's an example. Let's look at the sales process of finding and attracting a new customer. Many organizations provide leads to help sales people focus their initial contacts.

In some organizations, these leads are only provided every month or so. In between, the sales people can follow up on old leads . . . but have no new ones to focus on.

Changing the lead generation process to provide leads more often would allow salespeople the ability to make new contacts daily. In addition, if the leads are received more often, the leads are probably based on more recent expressions of interest by potential customers. Sales results are bound to improve in such a circumstance.

If the lead generation source is already adding leads daily, all that has to change is to transmit those leads daily to your company rather than less frequently. In many cases, the cost of doing so will be lower because a report may be eliminated in the process change.

2. Why haven't the avoidable delays been eliminated in the past?

You need to know the historical reason for the delays continuing because otherwise you won't know how to address the change process.

In some cases, the source of a delay may relate to some existing process that has not been changed recently. In those instances, the delay may simply be a function of no one having looked lately at how to make faster progress.

In other cases, your computer systems may be the source of the delay, and no one wants to put in the time and effort to change them except for a very good reason. Elsewhere, you may find that there are differences of opinion about what should be done, and no one wants to take on the political challenges of advocating and leading a change.

In some other circumstances, you may find that the delay is actually a defense mechanism that some people use to diffuse pressure for higher performance. Be sure to keep looking until you find some unconscious habits that are reinforcing the continued delays.

3. How will customers, employees, suppliers, distributors, partners, shareholders, lenders and the communities you serve be affected by eliminating the delays?

You will find that solutions which obviously benefit each stakeholder will be those that will be easiest to implement. If eliminating delays is harmful to some of these stockholder groups while being positive for others, rethink the subject to consider how the delays could be eliminated so that everyone would benefit.

In some cases, that may mean providing some of the economic benefit of the change to those who will be somewhat harmed by it to more than offset any harm.

4. Are there ways of eliminating delays that help with more than one kind of delay?

Most organizations have a limited capacity for change that is always being exceeded. In such circumstances, people may just spin their wheels and feel frustrated.

If you can find ways to eliminate the delays that require fewer or easier changes, you will be more likely to succeed in this and other important initiatives that the organization is pursuing.

5. What could go wrong when you eliminate delays?

Productivity often falls when an organization puts in a productivity improving change. A common reason for such a perverse result is that not enough preparation has been done so that everyone knows what he or she needs to do.

With time, appropriate learning usually develops and results improve. But with careful thinking in advance about the downside risk, you can often eliminate these painful, temporary setbacks that sap enthusiasm for the new direction.

6. What are the least demanding ways to avoid the delays?

As you know from applying the breakthrough solution process, great progress occurs each time you repeat the eight step process. If you pursue these changes in less demanding ways, you will finish putting this breakthrough solution into practice sooner so that you can begin repeating the process faster as well.

7. What other benefits will you gain from making these changes?

When you aim to make a breakthrough solution, you will often create improvements in other activities and areas that you were not considering. As you begin to focus on creating a breakthrough solution, the perspectives you gain from this question will help point you in the most effective direction.
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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