Management Articles


Change Checkpoints and Improvement Milestones

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

"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.

© Copyright 2001 The CLEMMER Group

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