Getting to the next level

If I come across another Good to Great programme I think I’m going to scream.  It seems that every Chief Executive has read Jim Collins’ ‘Good to Great’, some may have even read ‘Built to Last’ and now they are leading the way. 

If only they were.  The problem is that many of these organisations are not very good before they start.  You need a different approach to go from crap to good!  Then and only then, can you attempt to go from good to great.

The nature of all organisations is that there are pockets of brilliant practice and other areas that are poor.  Yet in order to attack this inconsistency we find a standardised approach.  This means that those who are brilliant feel they are being penalised for the poor performance of others and those who are poor are usually in denial. 

I recently met a team who had been identified as having problems by their Senior Managers. They spent most of the meeting telling me about their successes and how good they were.  I left the session thinking that all I had been told previously must have been wrong. 

In reality they had some great practice and some issues.  No team will accept they are poor performers; there will always present reasons for their shortcomings.  This is the crux; to shift their mindset from giving reasons for their failings towards taking responsibility and doing something different.

Even when this is achieved and everyone has a realistic view that the team is now good, what incentive is there for them to get to the next level?  If you have been at the bottom of the pile but have climbed out of that position isn’t it safer to stay with the practice that has delivered you to a new safer position? Why would you change further? 

Like most teams, in most organisations, in order to move to the next level you have to do something different.  You can refine and improve but this will only take you so far.  It’s like an athlete or football team who have achieved a certain standard and want to progress further. They may have the potential to improve, in order to do so they need a new coach who will open their eyes to different training regimes.  The risk is that this will make them worse.  Moving to the next level is a risk.

To enable a team to move to the next level their organisation has to share the risk.  Can they create the conditions which allow for experimentation and forgive setbacks?

The next level isn’t a number of little improvements; this will only take you so far.  When you have reached perfection what is next? Organisations, teams and individuals that achieve this next step have done so by taking a risk to find a different approach. 

Which is the biggest challenge, crap to good or good to great?