The Game-Changer

By on July 8, 2013

Noticing and responding to potential business game-changers allows  you to have an advantage even in an uncertain and chaotic business environment.  One of the key game-changers that exists within your organisation is pockets of excellence,  writes Belinda Davies.

In every business you are likely to find teams or divisions or individuals whose performance stands out head and shoulders above the rest. They meet and even exceed their targets, they meet deadlines, they are innovative and disciplined in their approach to their work – you just wish you could clone them. If they can get it so right, why doesn’t everyone?

If you examine why these pockets of excellence are outperforming the rest, you will find that there is nothing magical or mysterious about it. People and teams become exceptional because they behave in a particular way. You will find some of the following factors are at play:

  • They are very clear on their priorities, and focus on them to the exclusion of all else. Proof of this will be found in their habits and disciplines. What do they measure, how often do they measure and how do they act on those measures? How often do they meet and what do they talk about? What are the non-negotiable actions and behaviours that prevail?
  • There is something special about the quality of communication in the team. How do they speak to each other? How do they handle email communication? What happens to ensure that communication is open, clear, trustworthy and clearly understood in both directions? What happens in the team when things are unclear?
  • There is something about the team’s work processes and methods that makes for excellence. How does this team work that is different from other teams? How does it carry out its tasks? Is there a particular approach or methodology that sets this team apart?
  • There is a high level of engagement in the team. What are the individual and team objectives the team members are working towards, and how do they feel about these objectives? What sense does each team member have of the progress being made, and how do they get information on the progress they are making against these objectives? How supported do team members feel?
  • What about the customer relationships the members of this team have (whether these are internal or external customers)? Is there something special or different about these relationships? What are they doing to create this something special that they have?

In every pocket of excellence you will find that there are particular factors that make for this excellence. The true strategic thinker will have an insatiable curiosity about what might be responsible for creating this pocket of excellence – because if you can find out what the magic is and replicate it in other parts of the business, you will be creating an advantage for your organisation.

So what does strategic thinking in action look like when one or more pockets of excellence are to be found in your organisation? The strategic thinker is the person – at any level in the organisation – who does the following:

  • Sits up and pays attention – and notices that something special is happening.
  • Acknowledges that this team has something special – openly and to others.
  • Then does some research to find out what is creating the magic.

The strategic thinker identifies what is good in their organisation, seeks to understand it and formulate a “theory of success”, and then looks for ways to replicate it. In replicating these pockets of excellence, they are gathering evidence that tests the accuracy of this theory, amends that theory where necessary, and tests the new theory – so they actively experiments in order to create more pockets of success.

Rather than being the result of extraordinary vision, innovation, speed, internal change or luck, leaders in the most successful companies observed what worked, figured out why it worked, and built on proven foundations. This takes discipline, critical observation and analystical skills, and a certain amount of paranoia – a fear that the competitors are always out to get you. Because they are!


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