Continuous Improvement

Looking at Culture

It is important for each of us to step back and look at our organizational culture. What does it look like for a customer? Is it friendly and welcoming? Have you considered asking a visitor?

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Determining Success

“Your growth determines who you are.  Who you are will determine who you attract.  Who you attract determines the success of your organization.” – John Maxwell

What do you value? What does your organization value? How will those values lead to success?

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Bright Ideas:

Complacency develops for many reasons, with one being a perception that new ideas are unwelcome or even rejected. To combat complacency, consider ways you can encourage ideas from employees at all levels. Allowing employees to submit Bright Ideas to a peer group for review and implementation honors employees’ ideas while simultaneously improving the organization.

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Cast Vision for Change

Help your team members envision a brighter future, with the change in action. While being transparent, consider what positive outcome we can all focus on as a result of the change.

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A Journey

It’s easy to think that an organization can “arrive” at excellence and then take a breather. In reality, organizational excellence requires a constant effort and process of reflecting on where you are and where you need to be. Having a framework and set of principles to guide this effort keeps teams moving forward and aligned.

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How Can You Exceed Customer Expectations?

Start by asking your customers. Find out what their expectations are, and probe customers for ways your organization can improve the customer experience. Your current customers have the best insight into your customer experience, and asking for their feedback will make them feel valued and important. Don’t forget to thank them for their input.

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Start Small

PDSA can be used to test and measure system-wide improvements, however, it’s important to start with small fast tests when implementing PDSA. It’s helpful to focus on only one piece of the change rather than the entire implementation as you move through each round of testing. You can choose to run separate PDSA cycles simultaneously or sequentially depending on your desired outcome.

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Conduct an Initiative Audit

It’s hard for teams to innovate when they are pulled in competing directions. Before expecting innovation from your team, figure out if unnecessary initiatives are taking up time and energy. Conduct an initiative audit by asking your team to simply list all of the initiatives or projects they are working on. Align those initiatives to your strategic priorities and annual goals. If an initiative or project doesn’t align, consider getting rid of it. Why cloud valuable brain space with something that isn’t aligned?

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Analyze Your Communication

Barriers and silos often exist in an organization when there is a lack of effective communication. People in different departments aren’t sharing information, causing work to get repeated or the organization to send out mixed messages. Audit your communication to identify areas to eliminate barriers that are a result of inefficient communication.

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Clear Language

The futuristic nature of an organization’s strategic plan can sometimes lead to ambiguous language and goals. Ensure statements like “Become the market leader” are replaced in the final version of the strategic plan with concrete statements like “Increase consumption of services by __ target customer.”

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Investing Your Time

As leaders working with individuals to support their growth and improvements it’s important to be aware of the time you are investing in each individual compared to the outcomes. There are some individuals that will reach the high-solid performance level but may not achieve the high performer level. Leaders have to decide if they can accept performance at the solid performer level, or if they have more time to contribute to investing in the individual.

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Less is More

When creating a scorecard, it is important to remember less is more. What are the most important indicators of success for each strategic area? What are the few measures that will indicate progress? What are the 1-2 actions that will get us closer to the goal? Most of us are responsible for a substantial number of projects and tasks. We don’t put all of these responsibilities on our scorecard. The scorecard is a tool that keeps us focused on the few that matter most. This doesn’t mean we don’t tend to the others, but it does help us prioritize.

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Outside Perspective

Not sure what to change or if change is needed? Invite a critical friend to observe your meeting and offer feedback. An outside perspective can provide valuable insight.

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One at a Time

After an initial communication of all organizational goals, consider focusing on one goal at a time during the next few team meetings. Use this time to help team members see how their roles connect to the larger aims and identify actions the team will take to support achievement of the goal.

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Check in with Stakeholders

Schedule time each quarter to connect with a few external stakeholders. Ask for feedback and perceptions about the organization’s progress. Directly ask if there are any trends to which you should be paying close attention.

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Analyze Your Complaints

Keep track of the complaints you receive and respond to. Every 6 months revisit that list and make note of the complaints that arise the most. Ask your team and yourself if there is a barrier in the process or if there is a change that can be made to decrease the most common complaints.

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Plus/Delta & Why

A plus/delta tool can also aid in reflective practice. When using this tool, it is important to ensure you capture WHY each factor is a plus or a delta. The why is critical in deciding the best next steps.

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Breakdown Goals

Support high solid performers by working with them to breakdown their 90-day goals into more manageable pieces. Identify opportunities to celebrate the small wins along the way, which add up to the completion of the goal. Celebrating small wins motivates, encourages, and retains solid-performers.

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Remember Why You Started

Don’t forget why you started on the path of continuous improvement. Regularly remind yourself and your team why changes are occurring, particularly during the tougher phases.

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Tackle Problems One by One

When working on a Fishbone diagram, you may find that there could be several problems related to your project that need to be addressed, but do not attempt to answer them all using one diagram. Give each problem its own diagram to reach individual root causes.

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Develop Awareness

Track your actions for one week to develop an awareness of how you stack up in the area of modeling standards and expectations.

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Reward Mastered Skills

Monitor your aspiring leader’s progress and when a new leadership skill is mastered, recognize and reward the new leader. Individuals generally like to be recognized and rewarded in different ways, try to be as personal and specific as possible. If you are using or creating a formal new leader development program, incorporate regular reward and recognition into the program plan.

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Enlist Help From Your Team

The best person to improve a process is the person who carries out the process. Fully utilize employee skill-sets – can someone be doing more? If the process is improved, they will likely have time to take on higher level work.

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Align Your Team One Step at a Time

Identify one thing at a time you can do, or stop doing, to make sure your leadership team is on board and then commit to taking action. It’s the senior leader’s ultimate responsibility to align the executive leadership team.

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Recognize the Good

Confronting organizational issues gives the leader the opportunity to teach important lessons about behavioral norms and living the values of the organization. Use positive examples of colleagues leading by example especially through a conflict or challenge. By recognizing and rewarding colleagues for living the mission of the organization, this clarifies the expectation for all employees in the organization by demonstrating what right looks like.

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A Fresh Take: Observe & Report

Conduct a Plus/Delta with the participants at the end of your next board or team meeting. Observe dynamics in the discussion, is every leader an active participant?

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Gather Feedback to Grow

To facilitate a system of development consider implementing 360 Feedback opportunities on a regular basis at your organization. Based on the feedback received, people adjust their behavior, develop skills, and can learn to focus on other areas to be more effective.

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Stop What Doesn’t Work

Revisit your organization’s processes every 90 days and decide if it is effective and efficient or if the process could be improved or stopped altogether.

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Change Can Be Uncomfortable

The initial reaction is to slow down and back off because leaders tend to be uncomfortable with discomfort. This is the most important time to keep the throttle down.

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Decide When Adjustment is Necessary

Have a look at your compliance standards. Where are you allowing variance, and should you?

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Celebrate the Small Steps

Use weekly adjustment meetings to celebrate wins and unify the team around priorities. Spend a few minutes at each meeting letting team members share successes from the week and meaningful progress.

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Relate Don’t Compare

Look across industries for benchmark data. Some of the greatest innovations and successes are inspired by businesses doing completely different work.

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Track Your Actions

At the end of each day track your actions on a four-column table. In the first column, list your meetings, calls and tasks. In the 2nd column list the actions you took that align to your organizational standards. In the third column list what you could have done better in adhering to your mission and values. In column four, note opportunities to hold others accountable.

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Achievable Does Not Mean Easy

Unachievable goals have the potential to deflate and demotivate teams when time runs out and the target is not reached. Keep your team motivated and success realistically incremental by setting challenging, but achievable goals.

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Empower People to Solve Problems

Good processes arise when the workforce is empowered to identify and solve problems to achieve excellence. Process improvement reinforces and accelerates a culture of performance excellence. Encourage people to be problem solvers by bringing a solution with every problem.

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To Be Great, Innovate

Nothing new or great is achieved by doing things the way they have always been done. Leaders that apply a results-focused approach are not afraid to experiment and take risks while understanding the importance of celebrating small steps of success.

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Displaying Data

One caution for the results report and the sharing of the data would be to give careful thought to the way data are broken out when displaying rates of change. Often change that appears small in a graphic display may be more significant and some changes displayed as large may not be significant. Be careful when using graphic displays to describe the accuracy of the data.

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Find Opportunities to Grow

Self-awareness is the ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions, drive, and your effect on others. To improve your self-awareness, observe how you react to mistakes. Do you apologize when appropriate or do you become defensive and blame others? Ask a critical friend to be brutally honest when it comes to your growth in self-awareness. Adopt the mindset that coaching is caring. Challenge changes us for the better, look for opportunities in your daily routine to stretch yourself and grow in areas where you are not an expert.

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Paint a Picture with Your Team

Fully activating a strategic plan and engaging all employees includes setting the stage and helping your team visualize the destination. How can you paint a picture of what the future will look like once the vision is accomplished? How will you inspire your team to enthusiastically embrace the vision and the strategic plan? Create a story to help your employees visualize your organization in 5 years and use your employees in the starring roles. Include in the storyline, what right looks like, and ask each employee how they see themselves supporting these goals. What actions will they take?

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Use Top Box and Rank Ordering to Improve

When paired with survey item means, top box information becomes even more valuable for goal-setting. During your next results review, consider rank ordering survey items by mean and by top box percentage. Arranging data this way provides additional guidance as leaders determine improvement priorities.

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Devote Time to Listening

As leaders, we do some things well and others not so well. Our perception is not always the perception of others. When we ask employees what we can do to be a better leader, we build emotional bank accounts with them. Now is the time to listen rather than react to the problem. After the discussion, continue to leverage relationships by following-up with specific actions we will take to improve.

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Initiating Change

When communicating any organization goals or changes start with explaining the reason why it is necessary. Make changes only after you fully understand the process, you can’t fix what you don’t understand, and you risk alienating staff.

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Stay Organized with Plus/Delta

The plus/delta tool is an effective way to keep feedback organized. As electronic file sharing continues to be a positive trend in organizations, consider leveraging electronic tools for feedback gathering. Teams might use a shared plus/delta document to collect feedback about wins and challenges, if a particular process is ongoing. The notes made on the plus/delta can then be examined at each team meeting.

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Recognize Silos Taking Place

Symptoms of silos include:

  • Lack of information or knowledge sharing across teams,
  • Major projects are a surprise to people outside specific divisions,
  • Infrequent communication from leadership,
  • Inconsistent communication from leaders,
  • Multiple departments are working on similar projects or research simultaneously creating a duplication of work.
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Reduce Stress by Improving Processes

As new technology becomes rapidly introduced, it’s a good idea to revisit processes you use to execute your daily work. Analyze which tasks take you the most time, or cause you the most stress, and look for ways to improve the process for greater efficiency.

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What Have You Accomplished?

Create a list of your accomplishments since you’ve begun your career. What awards or recognition have you received? What impactful results have you reached? Use numbers and analytics to show impact when applicable.

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From Results to Action Plan

After you’ve completed the results rollout process, review the additional data you collected. Then, develop an action plan:

  • List the team’s prioritized actions.
  • Determine a timeline for implementation for each action.
  • Identify the person responsible for successful implementation of each action.
  • Provide the team with the draft 90 Day Action Plan for one last review and opportunity for feedback before implementation.
  • Implement the action plan.
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Change Begins with Honesty

To affect change, we must be honest with ourselves and with others. Explain to stakeholders why their feedback is important and necessary to help the organization improve.

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Measure to Provide Unmistakable Value

To illustrate to teams the value of their service, it’s critical to measure progress, gather feedback and share that information with employees and customers. Having conversations about those numbers will enable you to identify opportunities for improvement. These conversations facilitate how to get better at providing stakeholders with unmistakable value.

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From Employee Engagement Surveys to Action

After the employee engagement survey results are calculated, gather your team and talk about the results. What ideas does the team have for improving the lowest items? What items are most important to them? After you’ve recorded their priorities, develop an action plan to present to the team. When leaders are transparent with their action plans, teams know their leader is committed to increasing their engagement levels.

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Use Data to Action Plan

Collecting data is meaningless if we aren’t analyzing the data for opportunities and improvements. After data has been collected, analyzed, and shared, develop an action plan using information from these discussions. Set a challenging but achievable goal. Resist the temptation to set too many goals and stick to 1-3 to focus on.

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Sharing Data

After we have gathered data, it’s important to close the feedback loop and share the results with our organization’s stakeholders, such as employees and the community. Conversations with stakeholders around the data provide opportunities to gain additional information and identify wins, gaps, and possible strategies for reducing gaps.

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Drowning in Data?

The quality of the data is much more important than the quantity. Are you collecting the data that is most important for the organization? Are you using the data that’s being collected? Align the data to the organization’s goals to focus on what matters most and eliminate unnecessary data collection.

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From Strategy to Action

Are the organization’s broad goals converted into measurable annual goals? What actions are necessary to accomplish those annual goals? Who owns those actions? Setting and communicating defined annual goals as an executive leader is a vital first step to achieve organization-wide alignment. Team leaders can then determine what quarterly priorities will define success and which of their team members will be responsible for taking action. Progress and results are reported back to the executive leader in relation to the annual plan.

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Develop with Specific Goals

Prepare a plan with an aspiring leader this week. It’s recommended for the professional development plan to include goals, objectives to meet those goals, criteria for completion, and a timeline. Using specific, measurable goals, rather than vague goals like “improve communication,” we can better track progress and identify areas with further development needs.

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Clarify with the Team

As we reflect on what’s working well, identify areas with opportunities for improvement, and develop the needed adjustments to actions for execution. It’s the leader’s responsibility to clarify those actions with the team. Communicate clearly about which initiatives and priorities are no longer the focus and which 1-3 areas are more important. Align the team’s actions to the desired goals, and establish the next steps and who will own those steps.

 

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Reflect on Service

Gather data from your customers and front-end employees about their service experience with your organization. Listen to the feedback and analyze it to identify themes. Then discuss this information with your teams and brainstorm ideas to improve the experience. Choose 1-3 actions for improvement and decide which team members will own them.

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Why Aren’t We Getting Results?

When individuals or teams aren’t reaching the intended results, schedule a reflection session to review the actions taken and areas that can be improved to achieve success. Then, develop a plan for the individual’s or team’s next steps.

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What’s Working Well?

Analyze what is working well on your teams and with individuals to determine what actions lead to the greatest results. Incorporate more of what’s working well into the team’s upcoming strategic actions.

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Illustrate Goals Visually

Use a scorecard, stoplight report, or another tool to visually present yearly goals. This tool can be used in meetings to show the progress toward goals and make necessary adjustments if progress isn’t being made. Achieving goals becomes more likely if we have a constant focus on the actions being taken to attain success.

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The Right Data

Collecting data has a specific purpose. The type of data collected and the tool used for collection is determined by the issue, problem, or challenge to be addressed. Start by identifying one goal that the team or organization wants to achieve. What data is needed to understand the current state, set a challenging goal, and measure the progress? Collecting the right data and using it for improvement is essential to increasing performance.

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Satisfaction Surveys

How do you know your stakeholders are satisfied? The best way is to ask. Create a stakeholder feedback survey and distribute it to customers, clients, the community, parents, etc., to gather essential data used for decision making and future success.

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Weekly Connections

Connect with your team once a week for 10-15 minutes. Each member reports: one win/progress made, what step they’re taking next, and any potential barriers to achieving their goal.

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Communicate Progress

The stoplight colors are an easy and quick way to communicate progress toward achieving a goal. The green, yellow, and red colors are used to show the status in relation to achieving the goals. There is at least one measure (data set) for each goal. If there is no progress towards the goal, red is used. If the goal has been reached, we used green. A stoplight chart is a simple way to monitor progress and is a great visual communication tool.

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From Feedback to Actions

Identify 1-2 specific, high-leverage next steps from stakeholder feedback that will make the biggest difference to those you serve and drive the results you aim to achieve.

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Discussion for Improvements

Strategy sessions provide a forum for open and honest conversation about challenges and resources. The more we involve the entire team in the discussion, the richer the options for improvement.

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Identify the Actions

Which actions will produce 80% of the quarterly goal results? Identifying which actions produces the majority of the results will align individual behavior to organizational goals.

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Use Strategy to Inspire

Celebrating success maintains the focus for improvement and provides others with stories of success. Listening to the “why” of success during a strategy meeting may provide others with strategy or process improvement ideas.

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Strategy Sessions Rely on Data

It is most effective to schedule a strategy meeting after data needed to inform the work are available. We use data that informs progress toward the goal to make a judgement about how well we are executing strategic actions to accomplish the goal.

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Analyze The Process

Today, examine one process you or your team uses most frequently to eliminate extra steps and identify ways to improve. The most effective processes are simple, rather than complex, and are revisited regularly for efficiency.

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Be Prepared

Research what’s trending in your industry and anticipate what problems you will encounter for the projects you’re currently working on and brainstorm 3 potential solutions for each scenario.

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Learn to Be Exceptional

Exceptional leaders are continuous learners. Choose a topic you’d like to learn more about and schedule time this week to do so.

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Improve Yourself First

Identify one thing you will learn this week, and set aside the time needed in your schedule. Improve yourself before you attempt to improve those you lead.

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Concentrate on Your Strengths

Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on your strengths and let leaders, mentors and others help you with your weaknesses.

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Connect by Relating

Relate, don’t compare. During every meeting and interaction this week, identify how you can transfer and implement an idea or best practice to your team.

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Objective Evaluations

Adopt and commit to an objective, measurable, leader evaluation tool and hold leaders accountable for the results.

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Develop Yourself to Develop Others

Choose a skill you need to develop further as a leader and set aside 30 minutes each day to practice. We can only take someone as far as we’ve taken ourselves.

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Best Practices Out-Perform

Identify a best practice that’s currently being used by another unit or department that your team can implement to improve performance.

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Transparency Changes Results

Make your stakeholders aware of the current status and the future target of your organization. Be honest and transparent to change your results. After meeting, ask stakeholders to fill out a survey or other form of written feedback.

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What Gets Recognized Gets Repeated

Set clear expectations by immediately recognizing individuals who are doing the right things in the right way.

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Priorities Align to Values

Analyze your actions for today and determine if they are in line with the mission and values of your organization. Identify what actions will lead to the most results and spend your time accordingly.

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Observe and Learn

To improve the performance of your team, observe and review behaviors of low performing teams as well as those of high performing teams. By observing low performing teams you learn what not to do.

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Start Small

Start moving barriers today by writing down your top three obstacles. “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” – Michael Jordan

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Leading Change

Do one thing today outside of your comfort zone. “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” George Bernard Shaw

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