By Mark Samuel –
What does Breakthrough Mean?
A breakthrough is a change that uplevels both understanding and behavior to create an entirely different experience. In business, a breakthrough change is one that takes your organization to the next level to improve culture, increase profit or get out of debt, or create teams that perform optimally to improve business results while decreasing breakdowns. This kind of change requires a complete change in paradigm and behavior, such as looking to the future of where an organization wants to go rather than focusing on the past or creating new team habits to replace old ones that aren’t working.
What is the Difference Between Continuous and Breakthrough Change
Think of the difference between continuous improvement and breakthrough change as the difference between a caterpillar getting bigger vs. becoming a butterfly. Continuous improvement is important and refers to improving methods and practices that are already in place in the organization. This might include creating better communication systems, upgrading technology, or any other process improvement. Continuous improvement will never provide the kind of improvement that moves an organization to the next level of drastically increased profits or better culture. For a true change to take place, a breakthrough change, or transformation, is needed.
7 Tips For Creating Rapid Breakthrough Change
Leaders often talk about making breakthrough changes within their organizations with the intention to transform business results or significantly pivot performance. They can make the case, inspire people with a new vision, and set priorities to align with the message. Talking about it is easy. Acting on those new priorities, however, and taking the risk of “rocking the established boat” that has led to the organization’s long-standing success, is much harder to do.
Leaders can easily mask their stuck state and their resistance to taking the risk of change by endlessly debating and arguing about the best approach for making the necessary changes. Moving to the Breakthrough State, or what we refer to as the B STATE, requires the willingness to disrupt the organization’s current political, influential, and historical ways of thinking and behaving. This can be unnerving, making many people want to stall the move forward, consciously or unconsciously, in order to avoid feeling out of control while on the unknown path of achieving breakthrough results.
If you are truly dedicated to creating breakthrough results for your organization, turn the following Traps into Courageous Action.
1. Trade in Opinions for Knowledge
Leaders can debate endlessly about future consequences and results with no basis for assessing reality because it hasn’t yet happened. You can easily justify your position based on the evidence you take from your micro view of past incidences to make your case. But whether optimistic or pessimistic about the future, you are correct because you are creating it.
Leaders of breakthrough results have one thing in common: they are willing to take actions into unchartered territories, gain experience along the way, and allow their experience to inform the changes they make based on the knowing that comes from experience. The game plan is simple: learn from experience and adjust quickly.
2. Trade in Fear of Failure for a Recovery Plan
Creating a business transformation by definition pushes leaders into the space of the unknown. If it was known, they’d be there already! This unknown space can be frightening because it can feel like you have nothing to hold onto as you trek forward. This can cause people to feel like they’re moving toward B STATE too quickly, too slowly, or to begin thinking that it looks like a bad idea altogether. While it’s important to trust the process and keep moving to gain experience and learn, there are ways to alleviate the fear, concerns and doubt in a way that can improve results.
Take time to surface the concerns associated with moving into the unknown of achieving breakthrough results. Remember, the skeptics don’t know that their concerns will manifest even though they will argue as if it’s a fact. Meanwhile, the optimists don’t know that those concerns won’t surface. So together, create a “Recovery Plan” in case the concern does show up. This could be a contingency plan or a simple adjustment to the original plan. It could even be a plan to stop and get everyone together to collaborate on a solution given any new problematic conditions. Either way, you have alignment on moving forward with a safety valve for addressing concerns and fears rather than being blocked by them.
3. Trade in the Fear of the Unknown for Commitment to Your Picture of Success
In past models of leadership, a leader’s credibility was based on the trust created by predictable goals and results due to past performance. Leaders had to know everything to be the number one authority when making decisions and establishing future plans. However, when pioneering the plains of achieving breakthrough results, you can’t predict the future because it isn’t solely based on the past.
In order to achieve breakthrough results, the most important thing that the leader must know is a clear Picture of Success for what breakthrough results look like—not just the desired business outcomes, but the mindset and behaviors necessary for all leaders and employees to work together to achieve and sustain breakthrough results.
4. Trade in Decision by Consensus for Moving Forward Quickly to Gain Experience and Learning
Buy-in is not the underlying key to success for achieving Breakthrough Results. People will naturally have different reactions based on their comfort with risk or change, their need to stay in control, and their ability to understand the Picture of Success without yet experiencing it, since at the beginning it’s only a concept. Therefore, you can get stuck debating the concept forever, listening to the diverse perspectives of everyone involved, and never actually move forward on the breakthrough change.
The key to success is not achieving buy-in or consensus, but moving forward with the change in order to gain experience so you can learn and make adjustments. Experience has two advantages. First, it can dispel the catastrophic scenarios shared by Negativists to invoke resistance. Second, it demonstrates commitment to the Breakthrough results you desire as you move and make adjustments along the way. If you weren’t committed, you would just return to status quo and give up. This commitment through adjustment signals to people that even if they aren’t sure about or don’t understand the change, you are going to proceed regardless of adversity.
5. Trade in Attachment to the Plan for Becoming a GPS to Breakthrough Results
You can make a plan to get to B STATE, but you can’t know if, when, or how that plan will actually work. Your plan is a guide and a way to get started, but it’s not your north star. Think of it like a GPS. Your GPS wants to get you to your destination, so it makes adjustments as you move toward your destination. If you take a wrong turn, your GPS doesn’t just get you back on the original route, it gets you to your destination in the fastest way possible from where you currently are. This is exactly how it works to get from your current A State to your future B STATE.
Creating Breakthrough Results is not some external goal you try to achieve. It’s an inner process of changing how you think and what you do that represents a Breakthrough Change. As a leader, it begins with you. Then, it’s guiding your organization to think and behave differently, consistent with the manifestation of Breakthrough results. By thinking differently and then doing differently, you produce different results and manifest your breakthrough B STATE transformation.
6. Trade in Being the Hero for Being Cooperative
Related Article: Business Teams Do Not Need Heroes
It is tempting to want to be the hero or the savior of the team. After all, who doesn’t want to save the day? We’re helping out the team while earning a great reputation for ourselves…it’s a win-win, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, those who play the hero often put their own reputation and desire for attention above the good of the collective team. Being a team is about cooperation, not solving problems on our own so we can save the day. Being cooperative means putting the desired outcomes of the team above our own personal egoic desires. It also means valuing what everyone on the team brings to the table rather than thinking that one person can know all the answers or always bring the best solutions. Respect for diversity is what makes a cooperative team strong, not having one star player.
7. Trade in Punitive Individual Accountability for True Team Accountability
Related Article: Myths of Accountability
Accountability is one of the most misunderstood and misused concepts in business. When most people think of accountability, they think of being “held responsible” or punished for not accomplishing what they were supposed to accomplish. This paradigm of accountability is damaging and serves no purpose other than to keep people fearful, leading to a lack of accountability including ignoring and hiding from problems to avoid punishment.
True accountability involves the whole team and no one is punished for making a mistake or not getting something done. Being accountable for outcomes and to the team means doing everything you can to make sure the team and everyone involved is successful. This could involve being upfront about a mistake made, surfacing a problem early enough to rectify it, or helping a teammate improve at a skill they’re not good at. True team accountability does not punish team members, but problem-solves when needed in order to get back on track.