“Persistence is a secret weapon for everyone.”— Liu Wen

Many of my clients become frustrated with how hard it is to make change happen. It’s true that it’s not an easy task.

However, you can reduce your personal frustration if you focus on these keys for helping organizations improve.

Focus on the value to the business.
The first and most important step is to focus on the business imperative.

For example, if you are a software development organization, a goal to “improve quality” is insufficient. You must identify the business imperative and work toward it.

This goal could be to dramatically decrease defects so software engineers can move from fire-fighting to building great new products. Such a clear objective is a much more powerful motivator for everyone.

Establish meaningful ways to measure improvement.
To continue the example of a software development organization, many organizations may start to measure “the number of defects per thousand lines of code”. Although this measure is useful, it is not directly meaningful to the business imperative.

More meaningful would be to track how much more time people are spending in construction activities as opposed to problem chasing activities.

Avoid improvement traps.
Often improvement efforts fall into traps. For example, the “methodology” trap. There are a number of good methodologies available to software development organizations including various Agile methods, such as SCRUM, XP, the Team Software Process, and others.

However, many organizational improvement efforts fail because they pursue the dogma of the methodology. The key with any improvement is to understand the organizational culture and make the right changes that lead to the necessary breakthrough.

Involve others.
Exceptional leadership always involves others. The key is to be clear about the what and the why of the business imperative and to encourage others to think about and do measurable experiments on “how” to make dramatic breakthroughs.

Be Passionately Persistent and Patient.
Do not expect change to happen overnight. For many leaders, this key is often the most difficult one to master. Yet when it is mastered, you will be more likely to show your joy at the small improvements along the way. That joy is contagious. Others will join you!

Change does not have to be difficult or complex; however, it does require doing something differently. What you have been doing has most likely made you and your organization successful in the past. So change can be scary, but it is often needed.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett

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