"When you arrive at a fork in the road — take it." — Yogi Berra, major league baseball Hall of Fame player and coach

Many paths lead to higher performance. The high performance route is individual and unique for every person, team, and organization. There is no one or best way. What works for me, or anyone else, may not work for you. We can't follow someone else's path. We need to blaze our own trail.

While no route is exactly the same, successful organization change and improvement efforts cover similar territory. Highly successful organizations have passed most of these change checkpoints and improvement milestones as they move toward ever-higher performance levels:

__ Clear and compelling reasons for changing and improving

__ Balanced focus on people, management, and technology

__ Strong ethic of self-determination

__ Comprehensive and balanced improvement model

__ Clear and compelling picture of our preferred future

__ Three or four core values

__ Definitive statement of purpose, business we’re in, or why we exist

__ Rich and continuous customer/partner performance gap data

__ Intense exploring and searching for new markets and customers

__ High levels of experimentation, pilots, and clumsy tries

__ Robust process for disseminating team and organization learning

__ Three to four strategic imperatives for each annual improvement cycle

__ Direct links between all improvement activities and strategic imperatives

__ Comprehensive and balanced improvement plan

__ Improvement planning structure, process, and discipline

__ Well designed, proven approach to process management

__ Clarity on the preferred types and focus of all teams

__ Well trained team leaders and members

__ Intense levels of technical, management, and leadership skill development

__ Simple customer/partner, innovation, capabilities, improvement, and financial measurements

__ Active feedback loops that foster learning and improvement

__ Flat, decentralized, and team-based organization structure

__ Systems that serve and support customers and partners

__ Extensive and continuous education programs

__ Effective communication strategies, systems, and practices

__ Partner-designed reward and recognition programs within a vibrant appreciation culture

__ Strong development of change champions

__ Support for local initiatives

__ Annual progress reviews and improvement assessments

__ Frequent celebrations of major breakthroughs and small wins

__ Annual refocus and planning for the next year's improvement cycle

Management teams can use this list in a variety of ways. It could be a simple checklist for the development of improvement strategies and plan. They might have everyone on the team rate how well the organization and/or team is doing in each area now. Or they might have everyone rate the improvement urgency of each of these 31 areas. Another possibility is to have everyone do both rating exercises to provide performance gap data.

Author's Bio: 

Jim Clemmer’s practical leadership books, keynote presentations, workshops, and team retreats have helped hundreds of thousands of people worldwide improve personal, team, and organizational leadership. Visit his web site, http://jimclemmer.com/, for a huge selection of free practical resources including nearly 300 articles, dozens of video clips, team assessments, leadership newsletter, Improvement Points service, and popular leadership blog. Jim's five international bestselling books include The VIP Strategy, Firing on All Cylinders, Pathways to Performance, Growing the Distance, and The Leader's Digest. His latest book is Moose on the Table: A Novel Approach to Communications @ Work. www.jimclemmer.com

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