Only measure “better”

betterI’ve argued for a while now that the only output worth measuring organizationally for employees is their innovation, defined as a spectrum of performance from “status quo on the left to better in the middle to game-changer on the far right.” Yes, we need to have goals to aim for, but these are usually easy to come up with. If in sales, and you sold $1MM last year, it is relatively easy to conjure a target of north of $1MM this year and so on. What is infinitely harder is coming up with the plan or process to achieve whatever goal is set. What are the chances that you will achieve a higher goal if you used the same process as you did last year? That is, if you did things on the left side of the innovation spectrum, near the status quo marker. I do not know the answer to that but surely, it would be lower than if you did things more in the middle (better) or right of middle (towards game-changer). When coaching athletes, we make the distinction between process goals and outcome goals. Which athlete does not want to win or score the most goals? Not one. By focusing on the goal, and not what it takes to achieve the goal, athletes usually under-perform.

The workplace is no different. Which team or business unit does not want to overachieve or have huge profits or growth? Not one. For workplace folks, the focus should also be on the process to achieve these goals. And living away from the status quo (no innovation,  doing things the same way) and driving towards better (a demonstrable way to show you are doing things better than you did last year) increases the chances of achieving those stretch goals.
As we get embedded into the flow of a new calendar year, ask yourself where you and your team live on the innovation spectrum. How similar are you doing things with your teams currently to how you did them last year? Know that expecting each person, each human, on your team to innovate their process is the best chance to achieve those goals. So set all your performance conversations and problem solving sessions with a firm expectation that you want to live in the better to game-changer world of solutions. There really is a simple way to know if you are. Ask: Is this how we did it last year? Why would we expect to do better if it is?
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