Creating exceptional performance through a little WHAT, HOW and NOW

By Debra Evans, Kepner-Tregoe

During my career with Kepner Tregoe, I’ve had the privilege of working with mining organizations—so it caught my interest when a leadership coach was quoted asking clients if they were “turning the coal of the past into the diamonds of the present.”

Like coal to diamonds, there are specific things we can do to lead organizations through a painful change process. Leading others through critical strategic and tactical changes can take a toll on the enthusiasm and resilience of those we lead. Coal is opaque, relatively soft, and flakes easily while diamonds are transparent and the hardest known substance.  Experts tell us that resilient people are those who work on solving a problem rather than becoming paralyzed by it. Transforming organizations? Coal to diamonds? The molecular structure of a diamond is said to be especially sturdy. Something has to change…

Transitioning to a diamond-like operation is about intentionally creating a sturdy structure that provokes prized performance.  It is much more than teaching people new skills. At Kepner-Tregoe, we use a guide called the Enterprise Model to ensure all the right questions are asked – and answered - to provide a positive way forward. After all, you cannot lead your people to resolve issues unless you identify those priority issues that are relevant to your company’s health – and provide a way around potential paralysis. 

Overcome Powerlessness – WHAT

To defeat negativity and helplessness, it is important to have a dynamic and clear delineation among those things you can control, and those you can only influence.  Every company has the power to build and control a vibrant organization – a sturdy structure - around nine business components:

1.       Leadership
2.       Strategy
3.       Business Processes
4.       Goals & Measurements
5.       Human Capabilities
6.       Information and Knowledge Management
7.       Organization Structure
8.       Culture
9.       Issue Resolution

But there are also key factors that you cannot directly control – but may be able to expertly influence. These include:

1.       Suppliers
2.       Resource Providers
3.       Government Regulations
4.       Societal and Community concerns
5.       Parent Corporation
6.       Customers and Markets  

The Serenity Prayer comes to mind … grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Resilient people know the difference and are empowered by their leaders to change the things that they can change. 

Overcome Frustration – HOW

Once relevant questions around the nine variables in the Enterprise Model have been asked and answered, the senior leadership team is empowered to do something about the things they can control or influence.  More importantly, they will be able to expertly guide other leaders and individual contributors to actually resolve – rather than just talk about – those priority issues that are essential to best-practices performance.  At Kepner-Tregoe, we have taught, coached, practiced and applied a suite of Rational Process methodologies that help people “walk the talk” of strategic and operational issue identification, clarification, prioritization, and resolution in all nine of the Enterprise Model variables to avoid paralysis with a crystal-clear path through to the finish line.  Problems solved – permanently.  Decisions made – proficiently. Risks managed – skillfully.  This is accomplished through robust critical thinking – structured thinking – that reminds people that it truly matters “to think about how we think.”

Overcome Overwhelming – NOW

Take it to the finish line. It is easy to get stuck in the thinking but not doing.  Your company may audibly ‘sigh with relief’ when people are confident that the priority strategic and operational issues are understood (WHAT) – and those top priority issues can be solved (HOW).  Now it’s time for your team to take effective and efficient action with a sturdy structure of tools that help them tackle the to-do list.  Remember, resilient people take action.  We use project management best-practices to guide individuals and teams to the finish line. Across America and around the globe, we are frequently reminded of a core competency dearly held by Nike – JUST DO IT.  Be sure to know the right things and the right way and then do it with confidence and skill – WHAT, HOW, NOW. 

Sturdy structures provide a safe and dynamic environment within which the most important part of your organization – your people – can thrive.  Overcome paralysis, build resilience, and pursue the transformation of your company, from the coal of the past to the diamond of the future. 

Related topic: Learn about building critical thinking for individuals and organizations 

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