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Breakthrough after Breakthrough

A team that commits to a short-term improvement cycle gets quickly aligned and can suddenly start making rapid progress, seeing breakthroughs with every figurative turn of the wheel.

Never Getting to the Fun Stuff

It’s amazing how fast¬†time slips past without results when you have an improvement you know you should be working on. Before you know it you’re filling in forms to “close a corrective action” (or some other term for Official Improvement) without creating sustainable change.

Of course, official improvement (from the universe of ISO 9001, for example) is necessary; but we all know it isn’t sufficient. And business is never static: you’re either making progress or losing ground.

By focusing on whatever seems most important in the moment we end up spreading our efforts too thin despite the fact that we already know that’s the risk. We regroup every now and then when we realize things just have to change, and so we manage to frustrate both those who have found their comfort zone AND those who would like to shake things up more often.

We feel like we never get to the fun stuff: creating change that makes a real difference and has also been given the due diligence required (for example, using a Corrective Action) to make sure it won’t slip backwards.

Quit Tuning Up and Let’s Play

The secret lies in setting an impersonal rhythm to determine results instead of evaluating progress as a percentage of scope complete.

The smallest garage band needs a drummer, or at least a drum machine. Even a harp soloist needs a metronome (Yes, lady in the park, especially you, sorry…). You will always do better as a musician if you have help with your rhythm, and it’s no different in business.

There’s a huge difference in mindset when you say “What can we get done in this time period” instead of “How long will this take”. Better minds than mine have analyzed why this is (Read Goldratt’s “Critical Chain”, for example), but it’s well established.

Every endeavor needs a rhythm, and just like the garage band, it needs to start out as a simple rhythm played with soul and conviction, so that everyone can follow. If you already have a two-hour management, team or project meeting every week, that’s probably not the right tool for the job. I thoroughly enjoy the complexities of jazz if I have time to carefully listen to it and pick out the patterns and voices; but does it help you keep pace when you’re jogging? Is there any wonder regular meetings have a bad name?

Get together, Get Accountable, Get Going

You need a regular, fast-paced meeting – short enough to hold while standing – in which everyone agrees on what can be achieved this week. Commitments must be made and recorded, and brought up the following week. Here again there is plenty of guidance out there – Covey’s “Four Disciplines of Execution” for example.

Obviously this has prerequisites – you have to already be working on an agreed-on end result. Obviously oversight is needed, too: somebody has to own big-picture accountability and division of tasks. But the bottom line is, we have to move into execution. The only agenda items should be, Did we do what we said last week? Who needs to discuss it elsewhere if we did not? and What are we able to commit to this week?

An incredible amount of passion and energy develops in teams that experience breakthrough after breakthrough after breakthrough. A weekly execution rhythm is the key to unlocking that drive.