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Performance improvement: does one size really fit all?

What do you believe: one-size-fits-all or one-size-fits-one?

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Does one size really fit all?

Have you stopped to consider that your beliefs could be holding you and your organisation back?

In the turbulent world of the Knowledge Economy knowledge is King, but talent is the Kingdom. The response to the performance improvement challenges of a knowledge-centric world has generally been to take old thinking and become even more obsessed with efficiency and effectiveness (management over leadership).

For example, such an approach has driven a one-size-fits-all focus on best practice and streamlining to create fast knowledge flows. Sounds good, but people seem to forget that “best practice” surely means that there is one “best” way of doing something. In which case everybody would be doing the same thing and where is the competitive advantage for a talent-driven Knowledge Economy?

Consider the world of knowledge and talent, is this really the domain for best practice? Do people have the same levels of curiosity? Do they question the world in the same way? Do they have the same knowledge, skills and experiences upon which to base their decisions or solve problems? If not, why do people persist on  creating vanilla, one-size-fits-all, best practice approaches to knowledge and talent based problems in organisations? Surely, the real challenge is to create one-size-fits-one solutions, but that requires a disruptive mindset.

This is where people need to question their fundamental belief system. The language, the performance improvement solutions, of the past are out of step with the challenge of today’s organisational business environment. Is it any wonder that the editors of business journals constantly ask their readers to ponder why so many organisations end up failing?

More than this, there is the persistent belief that one person can provide the solution to knowledge or talent driven challenges – for example, a Quality Assurance, Project, HR or Knowledge Manager. In the world of best practice, the solution is widely known and therefore people tend to accept the notion of one person or organisational function designing a process, framework or policy. This belief is, again, out of step with the needs of today’s environment.

Instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach when directing experts to provide solutions and then asking users to adopt them, leaders/managers should be continuously engaging and involving users at the outset to create more effective one-size-fits-one solutions that speak to the needs of the individual. The former is tactical, the latter is strategic and more leadership-centric. This is important if you believe that knowledge and talent allow your organisation to continuously design, develop, deliver and maintain products and/or services that current and future customers will want.

A one-size-fits-one approach requires integrative thinking, something that is disruptive in the one-size-fits-all world of best practice – integrative thinking requires people to embrace the whole, and sometimes contradictory, aspects of a problem, working with contradiction and confounding problems to extend the shadow of the future and create resilient/sustainable solutions. This is even evident in the world of financial reporting and the emergence of the International Integrated Reporting Framework.

This is an ongoing problem that exists across sectors. So, what are your beliefs, are they out of step with the environment and, if so, what could you do to enhance performance improvement in your role in your organisation?

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