Monthly 10 Minute Challenge - September 2015
I love improvements.
I like talking about improvements. I like brainstorming new improvements. I like collecting data to measure existing improvements. In fact, you could say that I'm an "improvement guy". But amidst all of this activity, there is a common trap that improvement oriented people like me often fall into: we only think about incremental change.
Constantly improving is a key ingredient of professional excellence. And one aspect that makes constant improvement possible is incremental improvement. Stated simply, incremental improvement is taking anything that you or your organization does, and finding ways to do it "better".
If you're not improving, you are falling behind
Perhaps I'm geeky, but I find this endlessly fascinating: the bar by which organizations are measured is constantly being raised. The aspects that make organizations excellent today, are the same that will make organizations mediocre in the near future.
Think of it as "excellence inflation".
Without incremental improvement, your competitors will surpass you because the rest of the world continues to innovate and produce incremental change. And if everyone else is improving, your organization needs constant improvement just to maintain the status quo.
Rarely will incremental improvement get you ahead. More likely it will only allow you to match pace with your competitors.
But what about the competitors, technologies, and business models you don't yet know exist? These are the unknowns.
We, as leaders, often build ourselves into a trap of incremental improvement. We become so focused on tweaking the known part of our operations to become a few percentage points more efficient, that we lose sight of the unknown.
If you only focus on incrementally improving your process, your product, or your strategy, then you will be disrupted by a competitor. That's a fact. It's not a matter of if, but when. Perhaps that disruptor is another organization inside your own company; or worse, a competitor. By the time the unknown becomes known, it will be too late to take action.
That's why great leaders find a way to disrupt their own thinking, in parallel with driving incremental improvement throughout their operation.
And, your challenge
This month's 10 Minute Challenge is all about disrupting your own thinking, and breaking yourself free of your incremental change trap.
Pause for 10 minutes and wrestle with the following questions about your organization:
- What could we do to generate 10x the output (or performance)?
- What 20% of our activities are generating 80% of the value our organization produces?
- In one sentence or less, what benefits does my product or service generate, and who else might need those benefits? (talk about benefits, not products or features)
Be thoughtful with your responses, but don't over-analyze them. Go with your instinctive answers.
Now tuck these answers away and block out an uninterrupted hour in a few weeks time. During that future appointment, go back over your answers and reflect. Refine your thoughts as necessary and determine if any actions should be planned. Remember, if you don't disrupt your thinking, someone else will!
Take care, and I'll talk to you next time.
- Break Free of Your Routine and Give Yourself Room to Experiment
- The 3 Answers You Need to Break Free of the Incremental Change Trap
- Stop Lying to Yourself, We All Have the Same Amount of Time
- Seek out and Remove Your Productivity Kryptonite
- The Two Words You Use Everyday That Are Destroying Your Credibility