Did you ever play leapfrog as a child? If you did, you probably landed just beyond the other child. But if you had used a springy trampoline to launch yourself, you could have gone a large distance beyond. Wouldn’t that be fun? What if you could use a rocket-assist pack on your back to fly like you were on the moon hundreds of yards past the other person? I think that would be even more fun, don’t you? How about having your own ultralight plane to be able to fly hundreds of miles past the other person? Wouldn’t that be even better?
Let’s look at how you might get a similar advantage over your competitors by shooting way past their future performance before they get there.
The steps for creating a 2,000 percent 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 essay looks at step four.
Jump Past Where Everyone Else Wants to Go
Successful leapfrogging the future best practice (the best anyone will do in five years) requires that your best change leaders unify efforts. These leaders must commit to this challenging objective and shift the organizational culture to support them. Those working on the implementation must become masters of understanding the subprocesses needed to make the successful change.
Triage for Maximum Effect
Narrow your focus to a few areas of highest promise so that you do not water down your potential for results. Start by segmenting those aspects of exceeding future best practices into three categories that:
1. Can be accomplished almost immediately with little effort.
2. Can be implemented within two years with effort and attention.
3. Can be implemented over more than two years.
In your triage agenda, you can probably do most things that fall into the first category easily, quickly, and with little help except where the activity stymies a high-priority item from the second category. The challenge comes in selecting from the second and third categories. Here’s an important limitation to keep in mind: You probably cannot make more than three or four changes at the same time that involve the same people. You’ll make the most progress when you pick the best balance of near- and intermediate-term benefits while placing the least strain on your people and resources. To that mix, add anything else you can do through aggressive use of outside resources that doesn’t increase the internal burden. Within that agenda, give high priority to actions that will give you the most benefit over the next two years. Organize your efforts so that some significant benefits will be realized every six months or so to keep everyone motivated and working effectively.
We’re Almost Done-In
Since the thinking involved in steps five and six (finding and approaching the ideal best practice, the best anyone will ever be able to do) will suggest other outstanding choices, beware of setting too many firm projects at this step. Remember that you may be ready with better ideas from step six within just a few weeks. But if completing step six will take more than a few months, you should begin to implement some of what has been identified in step four.
In this case, my recommendation is that you reserve some change capacity (such as time of key people, analytical resources, and budget) beginning around the time that you will have some new projects to add. This approach may mean that you will choose to mine category 1 from the triage list more heavily for now than category 2.
Outsourcing for Outstanding Possibilities
To estimate how long it will take you to put a new practice in place, look at the experience of those who preceded you in implementing those practice elements. Then consider whether your organization will be a faster or slower learner and integrator than they were. As you consider your choices, consider speeding your progress by having the company you studied or some of its former employees be an outsourcing provider. Simply because you want to employ a certain subprocess doesn’t mean that you must become the world’s expert in that area.
Go Where the Benefits Are the Greatest
Beware of taking quantifications of likely benefits too literally. One project may appear to offer ten times the potential of another project, but the former project may also be a thousand times more difficult. Instead, emphasize places where you can effectively concentrate your resources while facing little resistance from any stakeholder or competitor. Choose a project that seems to offer more benefits, however, when two competing projects present similar difficulty and degrees of opposition.
Understand Your Track Record for Implementing Beyond Future Best Practices
Organizations vary widely in their ability to exceed future best practices through assembling new combinations of subprocesses. Many overestimate how well they will do in bringing groundbreaking new directions to an industry. Ask yourself these questions:
What major efforts has your organization made to improve over the last five years?
Which attempts achieved their purpose on budget and on schedule?
Which attempts did not?
What were the apparent causes for the two types of results based on discussions with those who worked on the attempts?
How many successful implementations were key individuals able to work on at once?
What could you do in the future to improve your organization’s effectiveness in such implementations?
Develop Project Plans to Exceed the Future Best Practice
Your ideas for projects to exceed the future best practice will usually come from research into what others are doing and planning to do. To test the direction you should take, check out what’s involved by developing project plans based on the answers to the following questions:
Which projects have a favorable cost-to-benefit ratio?
Which projects have an affordable cost compared to your resources and limitations?
Which projects have a reasonable likelihood of success?
Compare Your Plans to Past Results
Which of these potential changes look like your past successes?
Which potential changes look like your past misses and messes?
Do the opportunities to use your strengths in implementing future-best-practice-exceeding changes provide you with enough benefit to exceed the future best practice?
If not, what are the simplest, most effective ways to improve your organization’s ability to accomplish more valuable improvements?
What is the risk of not succeeding?
Remember to keep some time available to look at the opportunities you will develop from considering steps five and six. Ideally, select future-best-practice surpassing practices to mesh with the projects that will come out of your work with steps five and six.
Copyright 2007 Donald W. Mitchell, All Rights Reserved