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Use Knee-Jerk Reactions to Kick Start Improvements

Jan 4, 2008
When every mistake can cost millions, everyone wants to be perfect. Unfortunately, many people have little idea of how to gain that performance even when the goal's importance is clear.

Some business leaders prefer punishment: That means making it as painful as you can stand to make a mistake. But that approach will gain compliance rather than inspired effort. That may be good enough if you are training a vicious carnivore, but not if you want to soar beyond the rest of the world in pleasing customers and those who use your offerings.

Others like to use encouragement: Reward or recognize every good move. That's good for improvement, but it doesn't gain error-free performance.

What is needed?

Start with natural excitement and add good communications that build even more excitement.

Let me put this advice in context: It's an important lesson for those who want to make lots of breakthrough solutions (ways of accomplishing 20 times more with the same time, effort, and resources).

The steps for creating a breakthrough solution 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 accomplishing step six, pursuit of the ideal best practice (coming as close to perfection as is humanly possible).

Excitement Wins

Excitement makes change easier to accomplish.

Consider as an example how enthusiastic (and often inebriated) football fans learn to do effective card stunts displaying impressive images with less than five minutes of training and practice. The fans are excited to be at the game and want to increase the bragging rights of their experience to those who are watching on television. Those who like the card stunt idea nudge their neighbors to participate and help correct for errors among those who are too impaired to perform well without guidance.

Pick a direction that excites everyone . . . or select a message that ties your direction into something that excites people. For example, describe for employees how the changes support their personal values, can increase pay, provide more time off for family and friends, and can open up the doors for promotion.

There's Always Someone Who Doesn't Get the Word

Successful communications power breakthrough improvements. In most organizations few people get the word about a planned change and understand what needs to be done.

For a top-down initiative, roughly two-thirds of those at the top of an organization can describe what's supposed to be going on with an improvement program. Among middle managers, the number drops dramatically. And on the lowest organizational rungs, a mere handful of entry-level workers will know about the change program. Such a lack of understanding can be a roadblock when a new direction calls for everyone's participation.

To avoid being stuck in communications stalls, focus on the need to repeat the message and to vary the method of communications, while applying lots of emotional reinforcement and inspiring people with relevance.

The average person won't appreciate far-ranging new ideas until they are explained at least 25 times and in as many ways. Shorten up the time that it takes to receive those messages, and you'll do even better. Ideally, get the point across initially in 25 different ways during a single day.

Keep Your Eyes Open

While modest change projects work best by driving forward according to plan, major improvement programs are often enhanced by mid-course corrections to their plans. While you are implementing your projects to go near the ideal best practice, periodically reconsider whether your approach remains appropriate. Knowledge advances so rapidly that you may have new choices. Also, experience with the project may lead to better ideas for subsequent steps.

Stallbusters

Use the following questions to help select the right opportunities and move ahead of the rest of the world in the most favorable way:

-Which ideal best practice opportunities will help your organization's stakeholders the most? Consider users, customers, customers' customers, customers' customers' customers, suppliers' suppliers, suppliers' suppliers' suppliers, employees, employees' families, partners, distributors, shareholders, lenders, suppliers, suppliers' suppliers, suppliers' suppliers' suppliers, the communities you operate in, and the rest of humanity.

-Which of these ideal-best-practice opportunities most excite employees?

-Which ideal-best-practice opportunities will provide the greatest benefits if successful?

-Which ideal-best-practice opportunities will cause the least harm if unsuccessful?

-How does making the changes required by each ideal-best-practice opportunity match your historical record for successful changes, and what can you do to improve your likelihood of success?

-Which scarce resources needed for developing the most attractive future best practices will be required to pursue each ideal-best-practice opportunity, and what other benefits will be lost as a result?

-Can the ideal-best-practice opportunities deliver substantial results every six months, or even more frequently? What will those interim results be?

-Can you afford to take four or more different approaches to designing projects for pursuing the most promising ideal-best-practice opportunities?

-What should the objectives be for the most promising ideal-best-practice opportunities?

-What are at least four attractive ways to implement any ideal-best-practice opportunities that you choose?
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, 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 and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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