Management Articles


Keys to Personal, Team, and Organizational Transformation

By: Jim Clemmer

Jim Clemmer is an international keynote speaker, workshop leader, author, and president of The CLEMMER Group, a North American network of organization, team, and personal improvement consultants based in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. His other bestsellers include Firing on All Cylinders: The Service/Quality System for High-Powered Corporate Performance, and his most recent book, Growing the Distance: Timeless Principles for Personal, Career, and Family Success. His web site is

Daniel Boone once said, "I can't say I was ever lost, but I was bewildered once for three days." Many team and organization transformation and improvement efforts are lost or badly bewildered. Besides riding in smelly cabs, eating rubber chicken (or guessing the day's mystery meat), and racing through crowded airports to catch a flight, another benefit of my consulting work are the opportunities I've had to work with hundreds of leadership teams trying to improve themselves and their organizations. Some have been hugely successful. They've seen increases in response times, cycle times, customer service, quality, teamwork, morale, productivity, innovation, cost effectiveness, and the like in the dozens or even hundreds of percentages. Others have been somewhat successful in some areas of their improvement activities. And some ended up the swamp.

In the 1980s and 1990s programs like quality circles, excellence, total quality management, teams, empowerment, and re-engineering have faded in and out of fashion. I've spent two decades researching, personally applying, consulting, building my own companies upon, writing articles, columns, and books about, and speaking on the keys to personal, team, and organizational transformation. Here are a few of the recurring themes in my work:
  • Balance, paradox, and dilemmas. One of the reasons highly effective leaders are so effective is because they have well developed judgement muscles between their ears. They've learned how balancing "hard", analytical management skills with "soft," intuitive leadership skills.

  • Constant Improvement. You need to keep working in your job, team, business, or organization while you also work on your job, team, business, or organization. High performers develop the discipline to continually look at whether their doing the right things in the best way.

  • Laughter and fun. You may have missed that recent study showing that suppressed laughter goes back down to spread the hips and produce gas. High performers often have a well developed sense of humor, fun, and playfulness.

  • Your true self. You can't build a team, business, or organization different from you. There must be an alignment between who you are personally and where you're trying to take your organization or team. An unimproved leader can't produce an improved team or organization.

  • No quick fixes. Lasting and effective change and improvement comes from moving beyond bolt-on programs to built-in processes. Many people are looking for what's new in quick-fix improvement programs. But what works are fundamental improvement practices that become a habitual way of life.

  • Taking action. My years of research and work with behavior-based skill development methods clearly shows that we act our way into new ways of thinking far more easily than we can think our way into new ways of acting. More important than what know about the principles of high performance is what you're doing about applying them.

  • Leadership as action, not a position. I've seen outstanding leadership action come from people who weren't in key leadership (management) roles. I've also seen too many key managers fail to act like leaders. Highly effective organizations are brimming over with leaders at all levels and in all positions.

  • Blazing your own improvement path. There are as many ways to change and improve as there are people and organizations trying to do so. This is no one right path or approach to higher performance. The most important thing is that you have an improvement plan or process.
Even though they know better, most managers continue to search for quick-fix transformation and improvement programs. There aren't any. Highly successful leaders turn common sense management bromides in common practice.

© Copyright 2000 The CLEMMER Group

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