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Leveraging your performance

Ucrane1nderstanding how our minds develop has been a focus of the scientific community for over a century. Cognitive scientists have conducted in-depth evaluations to determine the real drivers and mechanics behind our thinking and behavior. Peter Senge refers to these as systemic or generative structures. MEganize translates them into the 1st Quadrant drivers in the Strategic Change Cycle. The impact of psychological discovery is slowly being successfully applied to business for the good. So what is the real message?

The Strategic Change Cycle not only represents the continuous flow of business and decision-making, but also reflects the balance required in this process. Each quadrant reflects both micro learning styles and macro perspectives. From this cycle it can clearly be seen that the strategic perspective has been neglected in favor of routine, automation, and standardization. The four quadrants of the Strategic Change Cycle reflect Jung’s (et al) learning styles, which adds validity to the model. The 1st Quadrant relates to vision, values, structure and culture. These components are often abstract and inconspicuous, however their composition affects performance in the other quadrants of the Strategic Change Cycle (MEganize). All of these aspects are to some extent interrelated. All are thus generative and thus leverage areas and need to be in sync.

strategic-cycle

There are those who believe that the ‘right’ decision is only a matter of preference and not subject to absolutes, or proof or process. Decisions that are based on proven, generally accepted ‘principles’ that govern a top-down performance are most likely to succeed, while those who ignore these are most likely to fail. Leveraged decisions must be based on firm principles, not opinion. The only risk that then remains lies in the context of application and execution.

Inhibitors

We have many natural inhibitors in our psyche that confuse strategic thinking.  Based on our early experiences, we build our ‘schema’ which is used to filter, translate and learn information. We develop paradigms, habits, and culture. Our motivation and attitudes are largely defined in these years. They become part of our ‘structure’.

So, naturally we develop ‘blind spots’, bad habits, and even unproductive paradigms or mindsets. Organizations develop a ‘board room’ mentality that becomes insular in its thinking, resulting in groupthink, biases, assumptions and many other group incongruities. These can inhibit our growth, performance and happiness throughout life, unless challenged. Enter ‘the learning organization’.

Learning Organization

Written concepts may clarify, but success stories spread. Senge’s concepts of the five disciplines have been proven valid and even principle-based (universal) as students have put his theories to practice. Success stories of focusing on leverage aspects, varied though they may be, are inspiring to say the least. From Tony Dungy’s approach to creating winning teams from nothing (Bucs, Colts), to Alcoholics Anonymous. Paul O’Neal transformed Alcoa with a simple, almost ludicrous leverage focus, as did Travis Leach, founder of Starbucks, and Alan Mulally at Ford. Time and time again we see leaders transform organizations with a focus on 1st Quadrant issues.

Many would say that entrepreneurs cannot be replaced, and once they move on, their organization loses its drive. Whether Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, this is a fallacy. What is true is that these people share a core need and a ‘growth mindset’ (Dweck). This reflects an instinct for challenge, an inner motivation to get things done, and the willpower to make it happen.  These values, once shared with the organization, become a culture. Performance outweighs politics, competence levels are high as is trust in team output. The structure of the organization molds itself to suit these individuals and teams to fit the culture. A perfect example of this is Google and how they have broken from the past in creating a suitable workplace to fit their culture. Skills, accountability and commitment are team values that drive organizations. When these are combined with vision, purpose, openness and trust, you create a foundation for success.

The micro becomes the macro. Our individual motivation, learning, commitment and values are largely defined in our schools. Dweck’s Mindset elaborates on how our education is oriented towards a ‘fixed’ mindset which leads to a lack of self-discipline, and creates dishonesty. According to Dweck, specific schools’ performance has improved radically by a focus on this leveraged perspective. Again, it all points to the general weakness in our strategic thinking, and the importance of the 1st Quadrant.