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(Survey Results) The Greatest Current Challenges to Performance Improvement

The Practicing Perfection Institute, Inc. (PPI) recently offered a survey to nearly 5,000 performance improvement practitioners involved in safety, error reduction, quality, efficiency, and/or productivity. The survey asked a single question: “What is your greatest current challenge relative to improving [safety, quality, etc.] within your organization?”

This was the second survey of this type conducted by PPI. The first survey, which asked essentially the same question, was conducted in 2009. In the first survey, there were (4) top challenges, each having nominally the same levels of concern.

This survey identified (3) predominant challenges to performance improvement. Of particular interest was the #1 identified challenge, which came in at nearly 2-to-1 over the second and third highest challenges (quite different than the 2009 results).

Why the difference? Considering the answer(s) to this question within your organization should help you prioritize your efforts to strategize your influence and your impact.

-The Top 3 Challenges-

#3: Culture

The most-cited challenge from 2009 came in at #3 in our latest Survey. We’d like to take some comfort in this drop; however, the percentage of professionals claiming this as their greatest challenge has remained about the same. For many, organizational culture (and how to change it) remains a very significant challenge to improving safety, quality, and productivity.

Should you pay attention? Absolutely. Here are a couple of truths about culture:

  • Culture determines results

  • If you don’t manage your culture, your culture will manage you

Moving Forward: The culture in which you currently work is nothing more than the cumulative behaviors of the folks in your organization. Focus your efforts directly on (1) human performance, and (2) growing team behaviors. For more insight, watch this short VIDEO, and check out the PPI Code of Honor process.

#2: Worker Buy-In

This has remained as the second-biggest challenge. Many consider “lack of worker buy-in” to be a “people” issue. In reality, it is most often a program/process issue. Workers are NOT naturally apathetic or uncaring. In fact, people come to work wanting to do a good job.

If worker-buy-in is a challenge for you, chances are very good that you are suffering from (1) a chain of “programs-of-the-day” heaped upon the workers’ heads, (2) unclear vision, priorities, and/or messaging, (3) lack of congruency between what leadership says and what it does (or a combination of the three).

Want to know where resistance comes from? At the base level, many common shortfalls of organizational effort cause confusion, and a confused mind says- NO. (There’s your lack of buy-in).

Moving Forward: Each of us wants to matter. This is an intrinsic aspect of human nature. We want to feel like we have an honest opportunity to make a difference. Since our jobs, our careers, play a huge role in our sense of “self”, you and your organization have a GRAND opportunity staring you in the face. Lack of motivation is NOT the issue. For insights into HOW to tap into this marvelous self-reinforcing source of energy and positive momentum, start by watching these three VIDEOs (in this order). (Don’t worry each video is short and to the point.)

  • Safety is NOT Your Top Priority

  • How Can I Get Worker Buy-In?

  • How to Get a Worker to do the “Right Thing” at 3:00AM (When no one else is watching)

and finally…

#1: [The Big Kahuna] Lack of Leadership Support

The percentage of performance improvement professionals citing lack of leadership/management support as their greatest current challenge has essentially DOUBLED since 2009 (and is now a factor of almost 2-to-1 over the second and third-biggest challenges).

We can speculate (most likely fairly accurately) on the reasons for this- the economy, increased pressure by shareholders to produce short-term profits, ‘golden parachute’ awards irrespective of performance, etc. Interestingly, while this trend has moved in a decidedly negative direction over the past five years, there is a growing number of rising leaders who truly do “get it” relative to human performance. We believe strongly that these leaders (and their organizations) will thrive into the future as the consequences of short-term decision making by the others come home to roost.

Moving Forward: If lack of leadership support is an acute challenge for you, it is important to be aware of WHY you are not getting support. Once you have this figured out, then focus on (and develop) your ability to influence. As one who has the charge of improving performance, you must be effective at influencing in all directions (upward, downward, and sideways). If you are promoting the right things for the right reasons and you grow as an influencer, you will ultimately thrive in your career.

To get started, watch these two short VIDEOS:

  • How can I Increase My Ability to Influence Behaviors?

  • How can I get Leadership Support?

In Conclusion…

Numerous external and internal forces combined with high residuals of “old school thinking” can make your job very frustrating. At times, it may even feel “thankless.”

Take heart. Be persistent. Learn. Grow your ability to influence.

Whether your primary focus is upon safety, error reduction / quality, productivity, or efficiency, your efforts to improve performance are absolutely key to the long term success of your organization.

It is up to us as performance improvement professionals to create win-win environments that benefit everyone involved. When you watch the videos, please let us know your thoughts.

The PDF version of this article includes additional information regarding the makeup of survey respondents by area of focus, as well as relative magnitudes of the other challenges identified. You can access this version using the Print to PDF button below.

ALSO- we’d love to know what your biggest current challenges are. Please use the Comments section below and let us know your thoughts on this subject (even if it’s only a few words).

Until next time, I remain

your humble messenger,

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