Hello, What. Meet How.
How can large companies and organizations assure a successful outcome to large-scale innovation and transformation initiatives? By tapping the latent abilities of their leaders and teams to think and work differently.
Enterprise leaders have signaled that workplace transformation will continue to accelerate through 2021 and beyond. In turn, management consulting firms are expanding their offerings to include specialized digital transformation and analytics services. Multiple findings from enterprise research also point to the need for outsourced strategic thinking, and suggest that top organizations will continue to pay for innovative strategies, especially in the areas of digital and talent transformation. But these organizations will also want to make sure their strategies are aligned with operational realities. And they will expect to see tangible value from their investments. We believe these are precisely the assurances that human performance training via the Achieve System™ can offer. By including training in the Achieve System as part of bundled programs and services, management consulting firms can help their clients reach the highest possible levels of day-to-day performance and ensure adequate resources and priority are being given to managing the “people side” of business transformation.
The Plan Is Not The Destination
In their efforts to achieve both operational alignment and enterprise value received for costly transformation initiatives, organizations place great emphasis on planning and strategizing to guide the process. And because any large-scale change is likely to engender widespread anxiety (even if the change, when viewed in the abstract, is perceived as positive), human nature further elevates the importance of plans and strategies as a perceived antidote to uncertainty.
Transformational change creates uncertainty. It means confronting the unfamiliar, and with it, fear of the unknown. There is also the very real pain that employees feel at the loss of a predictable future. Most of us imagine our future to be a familiar and recognizable continuation of our past – albeit improved. Then the change agents arrive, insisting they’ve got a new and better way to do things, but one that completely eradicates this anticipated future because it disconnects people from their past. Until employees are shown a new future that they can embrace and make their own, most, at least to some degree, will resist even the most well-orchestrated and sensible change. Yet very few plans for transformative change specifically define and describe the future which is expected to come about. Lacking a clearly defined future, people become overly reliant on what they consider the next best thing – the plan and the roadmap. They become obsessively focused on the details of execution, while their subconscious resistance and fear often show up as a general timidity and reluctance to take the initiative. That’s a problem, because the adage “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy” might be rewritten as “No business strategy survives contact with the disgruntled employee or unhappy customer.”
Plans and strategies must inevitably evolve; getting stuck on the plan, especially if the plan is losing relevance to impinging realities, hurts both the transformation initiative and how it is viewed within the organization. Flexibility is crucial – but flexibility only comes when employees shift focus from executing the plan to taking whatever steps are required to reach the desired outcome. So who’s going to abandon the security and stability of the plan and instead take a leap into something new? No one – unless they are confident that their next step will move them toward the desired goal rather than over a cliff.
Sticking with an increasingly outmoded plan and trying to fix repeating problems appears to be the safer choice—at least in the short term. Fixing problems is endemic to many transformation efforts and it’s not unusual to see entire initiatives bogged down by people trying to fix problems instead of create solutions, with the inevitable result of keeping teams looking backward and focused on the past.
The aphorism “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy” might be rewritten today as “No business strategy survives contact with the disgruntled employee or unhappy customer.”
Create – Don’t Fix
Fortunately there is a demonstrably effective and actionable tool within the Achieve System that shifts attention from solving problems rooted in the past to creating solutions anchored in the future. We call it “Create, Don’t Fix” and it can be applied at any point along the trajectory of transformation where challenges arise. And the mindset required to successfully implement Create, Don’t Fix can be learned and practiced much as a muscle can be strengthened. Create, Don’t Fix re-orients your team members toward the future rather than the past. They are asked to imagine and describe how things would look if a solution was already in place – What would be happening? Who would be doing what? What elements of the solution would be in place? How did they come about? These sorts of prompts ensure that team members engage in original creative thinking rather than rote problem-solving rooted in past circumstances and events. Create, Don’t Fix is only one tool in the Achieve System’s comprehensive program for helping your people learn to bring their best selves to the job – a process we call it upgrading the human operating framework.
Transformation As An Inside Job The Achieve Institute has repeatedly proven that sustained high performance is achievable by virtually every individual, and can scale to virtually every team and organization, provided the organization’s leadership recognizes the importance of helping employees at every level to embrace the required practices. These practices are role- and industry-agnostic and universally learnable, applicable and scalable, because they leverage hardwired aspects of human behavior and cognition. They’re also absent from most transformation initiatives, which typically only include training and skills development specific to the implementation of new processes and systems. Technology skills training, soft skills, leadership and management training – this is all the what required for innovation and transformation. Human performance training is the how. The goal of performance training is not for people to become proficient at a new digital technology or automated process, or to improve their skills in communication, sales, conflict resolution or contract negotiations. Rather, the Achieve System addresses something much more fundamental, with potentially profound consequences for the intended transformation: employees become more proficient at managing their own work habits, attitudes and relationships. By teaching people to recognize, influence and manage their mindset, relationships and behaviors, individuals, teams and entire organizations learn to create and sustain a readily accessible state of high performance.
We might say that training in the Achieve System gives people the missing instruction manual on the how: how to leverage more data, to execute strategy pivots, to adopt new digital technologies and processes, and to apply all of their individual skill sets to deliver the high returns organizations and companies expect. In fact, we would assert it is not possible to create a significant, sustainable and scalable boost in human performance without asking employees to examine their workplace attitudes and behaviors, and then to work to better understand causes and manage effects. The Achieve System has repeatedly proven that the how can be learned, and once learned, scaled to sustained high performance by teams and entire organizations. And helping individuals and teams upgrade their operating frameworks is only the first step to creating a new performance normal.
Equally important is getting your key employees, teams and organizational leadership to align in the creation of a scalable high-performance culture.
The Power of Culture
Lasting change and meaningful innovation always require cultural alignment with the desired outcomes. In the absence of this alignment, organizational culture acts like a powerful but invisible back-current that change-makers must swim against every step of the way. By recognizing this up front, an organization can get clear on the cultural shifts that must happen to successfully sustain the transformation and reaps its rewards. When organizations ignore this dynamic, another aphorism comes to mind – the observation that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Most performance-enhancing methodologies largely ignore the role of culture and thus forfeit a powerful ally to transformation. Those that do include cultural factors are usually unconsciously oriented backwards, anchored in past performance and addressing past problems. But until an organization’s culture is oriented toward creating future states of performance, any strategic decision, tactical intervention or execution plan will produce suboptimal results. The Achieve System empowers the organization to align culture, strategy and operational realities. Specifically, when culture is aligned to support high performance, results can be nothing short of astonishing. Once employees realize that they have the power to determine their own destiny in the workplace, they will recreate their work environment and practices to support peak performance. Further, as employees learn how to show up as the “best actual” version of themselves in this new cultural context, previously insurmountable barriers give way and employees and teams begin creating a new, achievable future. Large organizations often spend hundreds of millions of dollars on transformation and change management. The additional cost of helping assure the desired outcome by implementing human performance training is negligible – often a fraction of a percent of the overall initiative’s budget. And yet verifiable returns from Achieve System performance training are often several orders of magnitude greater than the expenditure. This is the norm, not the exception.
When you empower people to function at consistently higher performance levels, you unleash engagement, innovation transformation and growth by connecting the organization to future possibilities.