Keys to Sustained Peak Performance
Gail and Matt Taylor
article was originally published in the December, 1993 issue of
Mobius magazine. Copyright © 1993, The Society of Consumer Affairs
Professionals in Business
Reprinted with permission
re-engineering the answer?
Is TQM the answer?
Perhaps it's both plus the ability to adapt to change.
have been selected for an exciting project and a challenging one.
You and your eight teammates realize your project will reach all
aspects of your business. Successful results will translate into
better interactions with the customer.
find yourself wondering about the potential of the project--your
mind explores different possibilities... And you wonder about
the possibility of doing it right this time. Is this going to
be another exciting project hat becomes compromised into just
an average solution--one that does not allow your best in performance,
and lets the customer down by failing to reach its full potential?
What happens to projects? Why do so many degrade from the original
goals and visions? Is it possible to actually reach and sustain
high performance day after day? Everyone wants it, so why is it
the early 70s, these questions initiated an exploration of the
changes inherent in the shift to a global knowledge economy. What
will be the ability of organizations to stay ahead of exponential
change? At that time, it also began to be recognized that the
fabulous organizing principle--the industrial organization--which
had created more change and wealth in a shorter period of time
than anything known to humankind, had itself, become a major barrier.
This structure--even if reorganized--can no longer stay requisite
with the rate of change and increase in complexity. Attempts to
streamline and empower the existing organizational structure would
fail. It appeared that this dying industrial paradigm would maintain
a death grip on organizational theory and practice until new organizational
models were developed and tested. The decline and collapse of
many of our great organizations was predicted because the industrial
society and all that goes with it had become a block to further
we set out to discover a new organizational structure/process
with new capacities: methods to systematically release the creative
potential of an entire organization so that it can perform at
levels required by new and continuously changing conditions and
were discovered based on a shift of mind about the things to manage.
These "things" are 180° from what had been assumed.
People are inherently creative, but were blocked by their
own assumptions and by the industrial organizational system created
for another purpose. Solutions lay in removing the blocks and
changing this organizational structure. By removing these barriers,
organizations have practiced sustained creativity and results-oriented
changes at a level before considered impossible. These results
come from a field of vast riches within the human mind--riches
many people have not considered because they assume them to be
scarce, unmanageable and unknowable.
harvest these riches, companies must manage seven domains of their
organization in a new way--as an integrated system and systematic
process design and facilitation
seven domains exist in every workplace and organization. Their
components are familiar to everyone. Unfortunately, the majority
of organizations manage them from the vantage point of the industrial
paradigm... as isolated pieces to be controlled that, as such,
have little to do with each other, or make a direct contribution
to the bottom line. Viewed from a knowledge-based economy, they
take on a whole new importance.
these domains are valued and managed as an integrated system,
an environment is created in which the natural creativity of individuals
and groups blossoms with such power, in so short a period, our
companies are shocked! This approach can start with any project,
in any organization or institution. The workplace can only be
transformed project by project.
HERE from THERE
AXIOM: You can't get THERE from HERE; and, you can get HERE from
THERE. If you attempt to manage high performance from an industrial
era perspective, by pushing to a vision, long term gains will
be minimal, and in many cases destructive to the health of each
employee and the viability of the organization. Programs such
as TQM and reengineering will rarely get the results the organization
wants or expects, not because they lack value, but because they
are compromised by a dying organizational structure.
the other hand, letting go of industrial era controls and accountability
processes can seem scary and unmanageable. Before, creativity
had always been thought of as unpredictable and "unsuited"
for the corporate environment. How is it possible to manage free-flowing
information, to bring producer, stockholder, and customer together
and do more than talk at each other? How is innovation possible
in this period of cutbacks, diminishing resources, and chaos?
the seven domains as an integrated knowledge-based system can
help you engineer your way to THERE (creative, productive and
healthful high performance workplace) from HERE (the present with
its barriers and limitations). IN this process, you recreate your
way of thinking and your way of working.
7 Domains® Model
1. Body of Knowledge
Bring the corporate body of knowledge alive through using
it frequently and collaboratively. Generally, it is kept contained
in separate divisions, buried inside different experts and un-conversant
systems. If you want a project to succeed, you must use, explore,
and design with diverse fields of knowledge. Customers, managers,
producers, vendors all provide valuable information and feedback
in the design/use process. Creativity is the systematic elimination
of options through good design. Work with your teammates and network
to build a rich body of knowledge--one that you use everyday and
builds your future wealth base.
2. Work process design
Creativity cannot be forced or mandated. Failed attempts at managing
creativity are legend. We have found that the creative process--in
virtually all organizations--occurs by accident. Creative process means the entire
method by which ideas are discovered and translated into useful
tools, products and services and used in the marketplace.
the blocks of un-facilitated, undocumented, boring meetings; sterile
and unhealthy environments; inadequate tools that impose a hidden
ineffective work process; and, low grade information that neither
informs, enlightens or stimulates thought and action. Make your
role that of facilitating the creative process itself instead
of controlling agendas, dollars, time, and people.
3. Education and Training...
It is estimated that more than sixty percent of today's work is
learning! This learning is not relegated to management; it permeates
every aspect of the workplace. In the early 20th century it was
possible for a good mathematician to know the entire body of knowledge
in his field. Today it is estimated that a good mathematician
knows less than one percent of his or her field's body of knowledge!
Further, it is estimated that more than ninety percent of the
technology that will affect our daily lives at the beginning of
the 21st century has not yet been invented. Explore any field
today, and you will find this explosive growth of knowledge. Thus,
the Axiom, "the first step to knowing something is knowing
that you don't know it," is critical. No longer can anyone
afford to think they know enough.
you develop the specifications for your project, be sure that
you "go well beyond what you assume to be possible
or do-able." Reach out and find what is possible that you
did not know, as well as what is on "the drawing boards"
and will be a consumer product within a few years. Explore the
"impossible" and the far limits of your field or art.
Design your project to succeed several years into the future.
Don't let it be obsolete at its debut! Make continuous learning
and research legitimate and part of the work of your
etymology of training is "to make rote; to trail behind."
Education is to "lead out or forth." Use this project
to reach out and learn how to systematically discover new options
and to better use tools. Training offers the opportunity of practicing
new skills in learning how to design with and use new information,
turning it into knowledge and wealth. If you walk out of any meeting
or design session having failed to learn and be stimulated to
think and make new connections, it was a waste of time for you
and your teammates.
4. Environments and tools...
The environment is a strong facilitator of creativity
and is often overlooked--for teams and individuals. Functional
environments for knowledge workers are radical departures from
the industrial era workplace. Create a neutral work space
where people come to engage and play with ideas. Get the tables
and desks out of the way. Make the space able to easily configure
to the needs of the team minute to minute, day to day, year to
year. Provide large group interaction spaces and small breakout
areas for design team and personal work. Provide yourself and
your teammates with the ability to work big and collaboratively.
You can't see complexity and you can't manage it with 8 ½ by 11
pieces of paper, sitting in chairs talking at each other across
tables or trapped in the screen of a computer! For many, creative
thought comes from pacing, from working big, and from adding to
someone else's ideas. Set the environment to facilitate different
learning and thinking styles. Stock the environment with music,
articles, posters, toys, books, surprises. The environment can
create a field so strong and focused it will do at least half
the work for you! Don't set agendas to talk about or report to
others; use your time together to design, collaborate and engineer
"working" your way through the entire creative process--each
time you come together.
Technology acts as both a nervous system and an amplifier. Used
appropriately it can provide a platform for leveraging the creative
work for continual leaps in productivity. Knowledge workers, as
any craftsman, must understand and use their tools as an artist
forging a masterpiece. Technology comes from the word technic--
"of or pertaining to art; skillfully made or constructed."
Modern tools, while miracles each in themselves, do not now function
as an integrated work process system. Instead, they amplify unusable
data, automate unnecessary linear sequential processes and isolate
you from your teammates and the natural environment. To produce
tools, products and services for the knowledge economy, create
environments and systems in which integrated human teams and smart
technology combine to work and create what has not been done before.
6. Project management...
Virtually everything is subject to good project management.
The constraints of budgets, time and resources are essential catalysts
for success. Knowledge management however, is not the control
of time, people, and dollars; rather, dramatic cost and time savings
are the results of high performance. As project manager, insure
that the team is working with a rich and diversified body of knowledge.
Facilitate your team through the phases of the creative process,
assisting with the seamless movement from identity and view (scan)
through intent and insight (focus) to engineering, building and
using (act). Involve all stakeholders in the entire process so
that the team does not pass data and stale information from one
phase to another. If you fail to facilitate the creative
process as a whole system, the project will degrade with each
sequential, unconnected and linear step. A measurement of a healthy
work team is that over 90 percent of the resources through all
phases can be tracked with formal project management
7. Venture management...
Venture management must happen at all levels of an organization.
Venture management is to develop corporate vision--THERE--and
to make it reside in every step and aspect of daily work--wherever
the HERE is. It means to preserve and grow, while continuously
re-creating the organization and its people in the very act of
manufacturing value for the marketplace. Venture management is
to build and maintain the virtual network of producer, customer,
and stockholder as a functioning organization in which the interests
of all are in harmony. Venture management is integrating--in all
actions--the whole and the part that you are building at this
Managing the 7 Domains can seem difficult to start because it
sounds ambiguous or open-ended--from "HERE." Some people
might tell you, "it's not based on reality." Don't ask
permission. You already have the authority to develop products
of value for your customers. You will demonstrate the value in
the process--project by project--of the results of managing a
knowledge-based workplace. Have fun! Use these guidelines and
discover more by doing so. The only way you will know "how"
to bring THERE to HERE is to do it... to figure it out
and design as you go. Learn to make peak performance and work
happiness the norm--the new reality.
you can do to improve your 7 Domains:
1. Build a knowledge base and update it daily. Bring in books,
models and articles. Make a document control system that enables
you to put your hand on every memo, quote, article, instruction,
graphic, note, paper, contract, specification, picture, catalog--every
significant item of information--that the team collects and produces
quickly, no matter where or how that information is stored
or who "owns" it. Build a chronological file that
documents your team's experience and is accessible to your network.
Build this capacity day by day as you do the work.
Design your work process. Engineer, understand, and practice a systematic
method that researches, designs, manufactures, distributes and
supports your work-product whether it's abstract knowledge, a
service, or a concrete, physical product. Don't start with old
work processes that were created for another era and were based
on knowledge and tools that are no longer useful. Don't assume
that today's level of effort for your product is a valid standard
no matter how good you are. Assume that the environment
is going to demand of you breakthrough after breakthrough and
design a process that does just that and re-creates itself in
Be a learning organization. Challenge yourself and everyone in
your group to learn--then to learn more. Make learning an integral
part of everyday efforts. Engage in vigorous cross training with
your teammates. Do this with your customers. Organize your learning
to be "just in time" by matching learning with life-cycles,
personal interests, learning opportunities and future work demands.
Learn outside of your specialty and specific work-related focus.
Turn every challenge, frustration and work requirement into a
learning opportunity. Build "smarts" into your processes,
machines and products.
Bring your environment alive! Personalize it. Make it fit you
and your teammates' individual learning/working styles.
The knowledge-intensive environment requires parallel work processing
and has many demands: individual work, group work, communicating,
thinking, designing, producing, researching, learning... it goes
on and on. Make the environment adjustable so that it works
for what you are doing now. Have big walls to display work-in-progress,
so you and your team can work together on projects. Put your furniture,
tools and files on wheels. Make tables that fold-up and link together
in various ways. Make your work neighborhood express your team's
character and be a unique place. Get some plants and
some stuff from home. Vary the lighting. Keep it neat and clean
(not rigid and sterile). Do an environmental check. Make your
environment a place where you want to live.
Stop being a victim of the "techies." They are great
people who are over-whelmed, over-worked, and underfunded--just
like you. They often want to control things too much (just like
you!). Give them a break and get smart about your technology.
Learn it. Use it well. Adapt it knowledgeably to your processes.
Be sensitive and aware that your system (whatever it is) has to
talk to and not break other systems. But make your system
your system. The new tools are getting more user-friendly,
user-adaptable and smart. Their potential still lies mostly dormant
as many of us try to beat our typewriters into computer, our telephones
into video conferencing systems, our carbon paper into electronic
printing presses, our file cabinets into laser-disk storage units
with little understanding or vision of a knowledge augmentation
system. New tools mean new work processes and a new environment
to house them. So, reinvent the process, use the tools wisely
and plug into the network. Your computer and a modem can now connect
to more than 20,000,000 people all over the world that are rebuilding
tomorrow. Just like you.
A project has a purpose, goals, measurable way-points and outcomes,
specific time and resource budgets and a design for the sequence
by which labor, materials, products, information are all to combine
to make something useful. Many great tools exist for managing
projects. Unfortunately, the tools are often not used. Sometimes,
they are used to punish, to stop variety, or to control things.
A project plan cannot be imposed. Use the tools on everything--at
an appropriate level. Don't let the tools use you. Don't lose
sight of the strategy and the big picture. Proper use of project
management creates precision of effort.
Why are you doing what you are doing? What does it accomplish?
What is the value? How do you and investors and customers profit?
Will the Earth be a better place to visit because you did it?
From trainee to C.E.O., everyone in an organization contributes
to it and is responsible for what it does. Not should be--is!
If you or your team loses vision, stop what you are doing. You
are probably about to break something or waste value. Do everything
as if the entire thing belonged to you and CBS was broadcasting
your every act. Your job isn't peeling potatoes; your mission
is providing nourishment for the customer. Envision the whole--and
do your part. Give up on predictability, control, and making people
do things. Work to build, with your team and your network, a viable
organization--a feedback-driven, learning, sustainable enterprise
that is an ever-increasing value to those who use it and those
specifications describe environments that exist and knowledge
work that is being done. The knowledge and tools are available.
The processes, tools and environments have been built. You can
buy these workplaces "turn-key" or you can make them
yourself--it doesn't matter. What does matter is that you equip
yourself, your team and your organization to be effective in a
world of constant, massive, quantum change. You can afford to
do it because you are already paying the cost.
How to Begin
Premises Regarding the Knowledge Economy
copyright © 1997, MG Taylor Corporation.
All rights reserved
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