Monday, August 12, 2013

Continuous Improvement and Innovation

You may have heard this analogy before, especially if you're familiar with Vijay Govindarajan (VG). In the modern Olympics since 1896, there have been four styles of high jumps: scissor kick, western roll, straddle (or eastern roll) and fosbury flop. While the scissor kick was predominant in the early years, there was some improvement in the heights of gold medal winners. Then a bit of quantum leap occurred when athletes adopted the western roll. Heights increased slightly more when the eastern roll was adopted but a whole new level of achievement occurred when the Fosbury Flop was accepted.

Most of our business efforts are like athletes trying to get a little higher with the scissor kick. As long as that paradigm is in place, we'll continue to do things the same way and continue to get the same results. VG's point at a recent leadership summit and in most of his work is that most of our projects deal with present efforts and maybe a little bit of trying to extinguish mistakes from the past. However, very little of our focus in truly on the future, where strategic planning should be spending its time. We should have people looking at paradigm shifts and whole new areas of endeavor. This team will have conflict with the current efforts, the current "performance engine" that's generating the profits. But the new team also needs to be in partnership with them in order to gain insights into how things currently work. The new team also cannot alienate the current team because it's dependent on some resources, like cash, for a while.

I've sat in some strategy sessions, and frankly, most are just glorified tactical sessions. How can we improve what we're doing now, instead of wondering what we should be doing instead to achieve dramatically significant results in the next few years.

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