Our overall theme this year for the 8th Annual Six Boxes® Summer Institute (June 18-22) will be SUSTAINMENT of performance improvement. Most of the sessions we are planning will explore or unpack issues and methods emerging from Six Boxes Performance Thinking for ensuring long-term return on investments in performance interventions. We'll be talking about sustainment at different levels.
As I've looked into organizations that are our clients, as well as some where I have colleagues or professional friends, it has become clear to me that the pace of business growth and change these days often causes leaders to "save time" in ways that can be counter-productive. Supposedly saving time, or moving too fast, leaders and managers often skip over opportunities to clearly specify expectations, provide positive or corrective feedback to keep people on track, or to recognize successful performance or milestones toward important goals. These are among the most valuable and impactful things that a manager or organizational leader can do. And yet, we often don't take the relatively small amount of time required to do them well.
At an ISPI conference in San Francisco some years ago, our colleague Guy Wallace did another round of interviews for his legacy series exploring the foundations and history of ISPI. He interviewed Carl and asked him about his own part of that history, while pulling out anecdotes and stories of some of the more interesting personalities who originated this wonderful technology on which we base our work. Watch it here.
In addition to the simplicity and plain language of the Six Boxes® Model itself, the visual and conceptual simplicity of the Performance Chain provides a foundation for "performance thinking" in the overall Six Boxes Approach. These are the graphic, linguistic and conceptual elements that make the approach simple to understand and describe. They also, of course, contain far more complexity in depth than is obvious at the outset.
I continue to come back to a theme that I and Dr. Donald Tosti addressed in a session at the annual conference of ISPI a few years ago, the difference between a problem-solving orientation to performance improvement and what we called a design engineering approach. Don was an informal mentor of mine, and an inspiration for decades, in many different ways. In this instance we found that we are in "violent agreement" and have continued the dialog over time. Don says that before the quality movement, performance improvement wasn't so focused on finding the cause of problems, but rather it was about getting the best possible performance as efficiently as possible. Today it seems more tilted toward problem-solving.
We believe that if you clearly connect the day-to-day activities of people to the goals the organization needs to achieve through their valuable work outputs, and then align and balance all the factors that influence their ability to perform, you will fully engage your employees. But let’s drop down to the working level beyond theory for a moment (even though we’ve proven the theory with clients!). Assuming that you know about the Performance Chain and the Six Boxes Model, here are eight steps that will help you strengthen employee engagement.
The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, by Atul Gawande, has had a much greater impact than simply on the field of clinical medicine, its birthplace. As was noted by one of its reviewers when the book first came out in 2009, it represents a potential "game changer." That is, job aids offer the potential for improving performance with extreme cost-effectiveness, in this case literally saving lives.
I often look back over my management career and wish I could go back and re-solve some of those performance problems with the Six Boxes. How much time and energy was wasted! One of the most memorable for me, especially because the outcome was the loss of a good employee, always comes to mind.
It's an old story that the top row of The Six Boxes Model generally provides more leverage than the bottom row. That's because the things we can do to change the environment (top row) are usually more powerful and broad-reaching than what we can do when we focus on the individual (bottom row).
- Sustaining Performance and Continuous Improvement
- Slow Down to Go Fast
- For ISPI History Buffs
- Unpacking the Performance Chain: The Essence of the Six Boxes Approach
- Performance Improvement as Design Engineering
- 8 Ways to Increase Employee Engagement
- The Checklist Manifesto
- I wish I knew then...
- OK, so Box 2 can produce a HUGE impact!