Thursday 24 March 2011

Making a breakthrough!

I was chatting with a client today about "breakthrough" change. What do i mean by breakthrough? Unprecedented, step changes in performance.

A great demonstration of this is the Mens High Jump World Record

The Men's High Jump World Record tells us a huge amount about how we evolve and change and what is required to create a step change in performance.

Game changing transformation will only occur when:
  • We challenge the rules. Moving from a standing jump to a running jump is a game changer that allows for a step change.
  • We think outside the box and look to do things fundamentally differently - the scissor kick.
  • We stand back and analyse the intended outcome and the capability we have at our disposal - the Fosbury flop. (The interesting thing about this is that it actually lifts the centre of gravity of the body by up to 20cm giving a huge advantage over prior forward facing techniques.)
We can apply these techniques in business to obtain breakthrough results. The problem isn't the capability or desire to deliver significant step changes in performance, I believe it is more that we have become accustomed to an ethos of continuous improvement, cost cutting and efficiency saving. We all expect to be targeted with a 5% cut here, a 3% improvement there; but how often are we given the space, freedom and support to stand back and deliver significant game changing improvements?

So how can we facilitate breakthrough?

At the heart of achieving this is a mindset change. Our ability to perceive and implement step changes is limited not by capability but by expectation. If we set stretch targets for teams and remove the barriers to invention, we will see that necessity is the mother of invention. Time and time again I have seen teams achieve step reductions in lead times, 20% margin improvements, 30% cost reduction ... purely by being asked to do so!

To create this mindset change there are some tools that teams will need, creative thinking techniques, problem solving approaches, case studies to show it is possible and most importantly challenge. This challenge takes many forms, but as is so often the case it often comes down to having somebody asking "Why." 

If any change leaders are in doubt, just pick up a copy of Rita Mae Brown's Sudden Death and flick to page 68 ...“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”