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Predictable Results in Unpredictable Times

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The one certainty in any business is uncertainty. You can be sure of change always. Still, some companies perform reliably and with excellence in spite of the ever-changing circumstances. 

Predictable Results in Unpredictable Times is about four essentials for getting great performance from business and yourself in both good times and bad. 

(1) Excellent Execution: Winning companies have clear goals and clear targets with strong follow through. All team members know the goals and know how to execute with precision. 

(2) High Trust Levels with All Stakeholders: Low trust slows you down and raises your costs - especially in times of turmoil. But when trust increases, everything speeds up and costs go down. 

(3) Achieving More with Less: In tough times, everyone tries to accomplish more with less, but the real question is ultimately, "more of what?" Winning companies focus on giving more value and not simply cutting back. 

(4) Transforming Fear into Engagement: Unpredictable times create anxiety that can distract you when what you need most at that time is absolute focus. Winning organizations entrust people with a mission and strategy they can believe in, channeling their anxiety into results. 

These principles can help companies win regardless of the turbulence of the ride or the shock of overwhelming change. 

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Predictable Results in Unpredictable Times

ePub

You are exposed to the improbable only if you let it control you. You always control what you do.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb



Every summer a colorful crowd of cyclists race each other in what is billed as the greatest human endurance test of all time—the Tour de France. On the flat, sunny terrain, they bunch up in a peloton, or platoon, some jockeying for the front, some coasting along in the slipstream of a rider inches ahead. But they mostly stay together. When the going is relatively easy, the peloton speeds along at a predictable pace.

Then comes the severe test of the mountains. Uncertain weather hits. Improbably, even in July the Alps can produce freezing rain and sleet. By contrast, the desert-like Mont Ventoux in the south of France is heatstroke waiting to happen. As the cyclists climb thousands of meters, the peloton strings out. Riders tire and drop away. Teams fall inexorably behind.

It’s in these extreme conditions that the great teams take the lead.

At times, your team or your company or your organization will face extreme conditions, with steep terrain and dramatic changes in climate. No one can see beyond the next hill. Even in a turnaround, there’s no likelihood of an easy ride—we’ve moved into a world where the measured risks of the past seem tame compared to what we face today. Future crises might be more severe than anything we’ve experienced. From here on, everyone agrees, we may be “in the mountains.”

 

Chapter 1 - Execute Priorities With Excellence

ePub

Winning on the flats is one thing—winning in the mountains is another.
Bob Whitman



In difficult times, winning performance depends on precise execution.

For the Tour de France, the mountains are the toughest challenge. This is the hardest part of the race where so much gets decided. Here the advantage goes not necessarily to the physically strongest team, but to the team that executes with the greatest precision.

Think about Lance Armstrong’s famous U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams that won the Tour de France seven times. In the mountains, the team became a “ruthlessly efficient machine.” Day after day they consistently paced themselves at the front of the pack through the punishing Alps and Pyrenées. According to one observer:

This is the hardest part of the race where so much gets decided.

George Hincapie, once a weak climber, now powered the peloton up the middle climbs of each stage. Floyd Landis would take the lead at the foot of the final mountain, setting a pace that splintered the field. Landis then handed off to Jose Azevedo, whose climbing pace was so fierce that only the top few riders in the world could keep up. By the time Armstrong rode to the front, he could focus on defeating the handful of rivals who remained.

 

Chapter 2 - Move With the Speed of Trust

ePub

“Widespread distrust in a society…imposes a kind of tax on all forms of economic activity, a tax that high-trust societies do not have to pay.”
Francis Fukuyama, Economist



“In the mountains,” trust makes all the difference.

Great Ormond Street Hospital in London has earned a reputation 150 years in the making at the forefront of children’s services in all aspects of care, especially critical surgeries.

But at one point some years ago, seven infants died in quick succession following heart surgery. The surgical teams involved were devastated. Clearly, something was wrong somewhere. Not only was the crisis causing the public to lose confidence in them, they were also losing confidence in themselves.

A great deal of researching—and soul-searching—went into the investigation of these failures. Soon they learned that the most dangerous time in the surgical procedure wasn’t in the operation or the intensive-care unit, but in the journey between the two. According to Dr. Martin Elliott, “You have to disconnect the baby from a lot of kit, put it onto a trolley, move it down a corridor, reconnect to another bunch of kit, and transfer a lot of knowledge about the baby from one tired team to a new, fresh team.”

 

Chapter 3 - Achieve More With Less

ePub

We need to ask ourselves whether times like these require getting the most things done, or a sharp focus on getting the most important thing done.
Vineet Nayar, IT Executive



“In the mountains,” it’s not enough to do more with less—you need to do more of what matters.

Imagine what it takes to climb the highest peak on each of the seven continents, including Mt. Everest. Imagine what it’s like when the temperature is far below freezing, the wind is trying to tear you off the mountain, and you’re scrambling for a handhold on vertical ice.

Now try doing all of that blind.

Erik Weihenmayer has done it. The first blind man to reach the seven peaks, he knows perhaps more than anyone living what is required to succeed in extreme conditions. What do you really need to have with you when the going gets nearly impossible? Here’s his advice:

Talk about packing for a mountain, you’re carrying your house on your back, and you can’t carry everything you want. So you pack light. As you get higher up the mountain and it gets harder, you have to become more strategic and focused and drop a lot of the extraneous stuff that weighs you down and becomes a distraction, all those obligations that you thought defined you. You have to strip yourself down and become more nimble so you can achieve the thing you really want. And when you’re on the side of Mt. Vinson in Antarctica and it’s 50 below, you might have to drop your pack altogether.48

 

Chapter 4 - Reduce Fear

ePub

Our world is dominated by the extreme, the unknown, and the very improbable.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb



“In the mountains,” fear is the great enemy.

Threatened jobs, disintegrating retirement, mortgage problems, high prices, eroding health care—it’s all “piling on” people. Economic recession produces a debilitating psychological recession. What The Economist calls “an endless series of hobgoblins” takes its toll. Your valued people are not immune to this perfect storm of fear.

Actually, any major change produces fear, such as new strategies, industry fragmentation, or disruptive technologies.

So here are a few provocative questions:

What does the psychological recession cost you?

Is your organization fatally distracted by fear? Are people paralyzed by uncertainty?

Have you figured out how to redirect all this anxiety into productive energy?

The costs of fear are heavy. Even in normal times, “distractions consume as much as 28 percent of the average U.S. worker’s day…and sap productivity to the tune of $650 billion a year.”69 In these confusing times, people are more mentally sidetracked than ever. When their homes, their families, their jobs, and their health are threatened, it’s just plain harder for people to focus.

 

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