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The Longer you Work at Improving the Same Thing, the Fewer Improvements you Make

Gold Medal sprinters work endless hours to shave a millisecond off their time. At the beginning, they made giant strides.

The longer you work at improving the same thing, the fewer improvements you make.

Improvement is quick and obvious at the beginning.  

Begin frequently:

The danger of making improvements is the illusion you can continue making the same improvements by doing more of the same.

Grinding away at the same thing wears everyone down and provides diminishing returns. Since large improvements happen at the beginning of a process, create beginnings. 

Work to improve one aspect of your leadership. Make a few obvious improvements. Turn your attention to something else.

Improvement is a process, not a destination.

10 steps on the journey to improvement:

  1. Identify and maximize high impact activities. Make a list of everything you’re doing. Rank each item on the list by the impact it has on desired results. Use a scale of one to ten.
  2. Choose one high impact activity to improve this month or quarter. You might improve your one-on-ones or strengthen relationships on your teams. You might decide to address a pain point, seize an opportunity, or maximize someone’s strengths.
  3. Determine an outcome.
  4. Identify behaviors that might achieve desired results.
  5. What behaviors might hinder desired results? (What do you need to stop?)
  6. Choose a time-frame that provides a sense of urgency, a month or quarter.
  7. Evaluate at the end of the time-frame.
    • What did you try?
    • How did it work?
    • Celebrate progress. Reject the need for perfection.
  8. Stabilize and systematize.
  9. Focus on improving something else. Return to improve the same area in six months.
  10. Identify and minimize low impact activities on your list. Yes, you still have to fill out reports.

Make something better, then make something else better.

How might improving things become a rut?

How might leaders maximize opportunities for improvement?

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