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Turning a business from just ok to very good

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger
Formula 1 racing drivers don’t just drive faster cars their driving technics are different to the ordinary motorists, they look further ahead, they are better at anticipating what the car will do, the way they go round /attack corners is different to standard motoring (less  breaking and more accelerating ). Technics that make you a competent driver of a family saloon are not the same as those used by racing drivers.
Something similar happens in organisations the technics that can be most effective in getting a LA out of special measures or turn round a failing organisation are not the same as those that can lift  an organisation from ordinary to extra ordinary.
If you want to move from adequate services to excellent services then you need to unlearn what made you ok and and learn what will make you excel. What is effective at improving poor performance actually works against moving from adequate services to excellent services. A resent report by the Institute for Government into the effectiveness of targets in improving public services https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/publications/targets-public-services found that targets we’re effective in improving poor performing services but prevented adequate service from becoming excellent. This is because targets have a tendency to disempower staff.
The report recognises the effectiveness of performance management in raising standards but provides evidence to support the tendency for the emphasis on targets to “ prioritise easy wins, ignore important issues and manipulate data.” A target culture encourages employees and managers to game the system and can create perverse incentives.(Convincing examples are given from Health and Education showing how hospitals and schools play the system resulting in some unintended outcomes.)
Most significantly for moving services/ the organisation up the gears to excellent performance the emphasis on targets diverts professions time away from clients into increased paper work and bureaucracy, disempowering and demoralising staff.
To move to excellence organisations need to make less use of targets and instead place the emphases on empowering  staff, giving managers more autonomy,  letting people make best use of their knowledge, skills, and creativity and trusting in employees  “Professionalism” to find the best solution.
Clearly this approach can only be taken once the the leadership is confident the basics are right and the organisation is ready to move to from just ok to very good.

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