Saturday, September 04, 2010

Step Four: Use the Hidden Consensus to Build Interest in Developing Breakthrough Knowledge and Skills

Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
— Jude 1:2 (NKJV)

If you approve of some action, you are also likely to favor
obtaining more results and faster benefits from the action,
and using fewer resources to accomplish the action. The
more expensive, difficult, risky, or time-consuming the
action is, the more interest many leaders and stakeholders
will have in gaining breakthrough knowledge, skills,
methods, and accomplishments.

Despite this interest, most people are naturally skeptical
when you start talking about making exponential
improvements. Breakthrough servants anticipate
skepticism about such large gains and prepare
convincing proofs for the organization’s leaders before
proposing breakthrough methods. Once breakthrough
servants have convinced the leaders, they can rely on the
leaders to decide how to share and to lead in persuading
stakeholders. Here are some possible sources of such

• Breakthrough examples of what other organizations
have done
• Breakthrough accomplishments by your organization
• Your organization’s successes with 2,000 percent
• Your organization’s stalls and stallbusters
• Descriptions of how to engage in breakthrough
• Ideal best practice lessons that are applicable to your
organization’s intended actions

Normally, it’s hard to interest leaders in talking about
potential innovations in all but the smallest and most
innovation-oriented organizations. However, any time
that highly regarded, risky, or expensive actions are
being considered or begun, information related to
enhancing those actions quickly spurts from the bottom
to the top of an organization much like Old Faithful
geyser in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park shoots
hot water and steam impressively many feet into the air.
After you obtain convincing proof, you usually just need
to alert your supervisor to that information and let
nature take its course. At most, simply ask your
supervisor later if he or she has passed along the
information yet to her or his supervisor and followed

Let me describe some ways to obtain the six sources of
proof that I listed. Let’s start with breakthrough
examples of what other organizations have done. Some
organizations will usually have been more effective than
others in engaging in similar or the same tasks as your
organization is planning to do. Making leaders aware that
fast progress isn’t automatic usually triggers an interest
in finding better methods. If the activities were not done
recently, you can probably find people who used to work
for that organization to tell you about what their
experiences were including what worked well and what
didn’t. In some cases, the experiences may be
documented in recordings or transcripts of speeches,
annual reports, articles, and books. The more sources
you find that document successes, problems, and missed
opportunities, the more persuasive your breakthrough
examples will be.

If the breakthroughs occurred more recently, you will
probably have to rely on your stakeholders who are
familiar with the other organization as well for
information. Suppliers are often the best source,
especially those who provide equipment or software,
because they are often called on to assist in implementing
a new activity. There will probably be relatively little
information that stakeholders can ethically provide that
isn’t confidential, but on general subjects (such as how
long the task took) they can probably share information
without violating any trust or confidences. If in doubt
about the appropriateness of answering your inquiry,
just ask the knowledgeable person to check with the
other organization for approval before telling you

Breakthroughs accomplished in your own organization
often have near-legendary status internally. As a result
of many people wanting to claim credit for such successes,
you will find that a lot of inaccurate perceptions will have
grown up around what led to the success and how it was
accomplished. Dig down and find the real data, and you
will be able to sift through any misinformation. In my
experience, a good number of the breakthroughs that
any organization has been celebrating for a long time will
turn out not to have been breakthroughs at all but,
rather, misperceptions of what occurred. In fact, you
might even find that some of the “breakthroughs” were
actually failures, but someone powerful recast them to
protect reputations.

The challenge in checking out the real data is finding out
who has what information. Here’s an example: Although
the breakthrough may concern customers, it may be that
the effects can only be seen today by looking at historical
financial information kept in a small part of the
organization. In some cases, there isn’t any complete
historical financial information. In those instances, it’s
often necessary to estimate the experience by assembling
bits and pieces of financial histories from different records
and making reasonable assumptions. If you are fortunate,
your organization has achieved some breakthroughs using
the 2,000 percent solution process that are not yet widely
known and appreciated. That’s not unusual. Whenever I
contact large companies about 2,000 percent solutions in
seeking to find new examples, people at the top tell me
that they don’t know of any such solutions. I hear this
reaction even from organizations where I have worked
with someone to create a successful 2,000 percent
solution. If you do have such an example, by all means
use it to demonstrate the potential of what your
organization can accomplish. If you don’t have such an
example to share, telling people that they can make
exponential improvements with the same time, effort,
and resources can sound like either wishful thinking or
invoking black magic. Introducing people to the
processes involved in locating and implementing
breakthroughs provides helpful knowledge about how a
different approach might lead to new and more effective
methods for accomplishing critical tasks.

Rather than first jumping into describing the eight-step
process, I suggest that you instead explore personal and
organizational stalls and stallbusters with those you need
to inform. A revealing part of such a discussion can be
showing how many high-priority internal tasks have
faltered through many different initiatives and projects.
Rather than drawing out some information to make these
points during meetings with the leadership team, it works
better to do the research in advance and to confirm what
you learn with those who should know and with any data
sources that are reliable.

When you start explaining the eight-step process, I
particularly encourage you to spend enough time so that
your leadership team understands a great many ways that
individuals and organizations accomplish near-perfect
results every day. Feel free to draw on the Ideal Practice
Blueprint to help you.

If your group is willing to spend significant time learning
about the process, there’s no better way to begin such
learning than by having them work together to create a
2,000 percent solution. If you do the appropriate future
and ideal best practice research work and thinking in
advance for the task, you’ll find that any group can
develop a perfectly good 2,000 percent solution in a
month or so after meeting for just a few hours each
week. If you don’t feel confident about doing this, first
develop a 2,000 percent solution in a similar area so
that you will be able to draw on that information and
experience as you work with the leadership group.

Copyright 2010 Donald W. Mitchell, All Rights Reserved.

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