Some practical suggestions follow from
Companies spend time getting work done. Leaders focus attention on getting through the backlog and responding to today’s challenges. Teams focus on executing the work. Leaders evaluate teams on whether they completed the work, the quality of the work, whether it was timely, whether it pleased customers and whether it drove the desired results. Almost all energy and time in the company focuses on these factors.
But we do not spend enough time on getting better at doing all that.
The tyranny of the urgent – to just get the work completed – especially in difficult COVID-pandemic circumstances – is what drives the focus. Companies do not set aside time or resources to get better at being better. Consequently, they are in a rat race.
So, how can your company get better at being better?
Typically, the first remedy companies look to when seeking to be better is technology. And that has a lot of validity. The story of human progress is one of technology innovation resulting in increased productivity.
Consequently, large-scale technology investments typically take many years before an organisation fully leverages its technology investments (and sometimes it never happens). To the extent that they do leverage the technology, it often takes quite a few years for the organisation to fully understand how to do that and change its operating model to fully benefit from technologies.
All experienced executives were involved in major technology investments in the past when they felt like they took a step back in productivity as the new technology came in. These investments seldom yield the promised results that the vendors or people sponsoring them hold out as the potential.
The same phenomenon happens when companies implement outsourcing, managed services or as-a-service solutions. The service provider comes in and changes the status quo. The provider takes over a process or function the client was doing and leaves the rest of the organisation trying to figure out how to fully utilise that service. It often happens that the client ends up duplicating functions that it pays the service provider to do – not because the service is inadequate but because the client organisation has not yet accommodated fully relying on that managed service. So, the technology comes up short on the promise of delivering better value.
So what’s the answer to how to get better at being better?
It requires time, resources and discipline, particularly on how the organisation implements technology and subsequently changes its processes or services.
Underpinning the effort to be better is the concept of a team – the group that is responsible for delivering value or doing the work – they must take responsibility for getting better at doing that work. This goes beyond receiving training to use technology.
First, leaders must challenge team members with how to improve what they do because only they can really see all the steps required to fully utilise it. But, and often, leaders distract teams by piling more work on them and focusing on getting more throughput, rather than giving them the challenge to get better or giving them the resources to do that.
Second, leaders must recognise that the challenge of getting better at being better is a journey, not a destination. There is always the opportunity to get better at being better. Leaders often make the mistake of thinking about this as a large project to run through to completion and that the result of completing the project will be being better. That mindset is a mistake. Rather, leaders need to think of efforts to get better at being better as a continuous journey in which every month they invest some part of the company’s time and resources so that the team can get better at being better.
The formula for your company getting better at being better is simple. Just follow these steps:
1. Measure the results you want the team to accomplish (not the team activities, because the activities will need to change).
2. Trust and empower the team to focus on those results and allow the team to build ownership in driving towards the results.
3. Work monthly with the team to devote a portion of their time and provide them with resources so they can get better at being better.
4. Recognize this effort as an ongoing journey that can give the company tremendous return on its investment and your time.
5. Be patient.
6. Be consistent in doing something to improve every month.
7. Be consistent in inspecting or working with the team monthly.
By following this strategy, your company will achieve remarkable progress in getting better at being better.