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Breakthrough Process 7 – Preparing Decision-Makers for Breakthrough Recommendations

In step seven of the Breakthrough Process, the focus is on preparing decision makers for the forthcoming breakthrough recommendations. This step is crucial because breakthrough ideas are often unconventional and creative, requiring decision makers to be psychologically, emotionally, and professionally ready to embrace innovative solutions. The process involves resetting mental paradigms, addressing the fear of uncertainty, and expanding the boundary of the possible within the organization. To create a breakthrough curve, leaders must adopt a strategic intention to lead the transformational change. This step ensures that decision makers are not only receptive but supportive of the breakthrough ideas presented by the Breakthrough Action and Analysis Teams (BATs). The goal is to facilitate a smooth transition from traditional thinking to transformative action.


I have mentioned before that the failures I’ve experienced, around 3 or 4 in my career, are not attributed to the process but rather to me. I am the one responsible for these failures, and in each case, it was my failure to ensure that the decision-makers were ready for the creative, inventive, and breakthrough nature of the recommendations that were forthcoming. This breakthrough process is virtually guaranteed to produce innovative solutions to problems that have never occurred before. So, remember that managers and decision-makers are supposed to be the smartest ones in the organization. It’s not always true, but that’s the feeling that you get. The higher you go, the smarter you’re supposed to be. Now, imagine being a senior executive decision-maker in an organization, and you’ve just had some consultants come in and run around getting the frontline people to come up with exciting new recommendations. And they actually do. They come up with amazing things that you haven’t thought of. It’s very, very important that these managers be prepared psychologically, emotionally, and professionally to be able to say yes to things that they didn’t think of. We’ll talk a little bit about how to do that. Now you’re down here, preparing the decision-makers now to go forward. And this is extremely, extremely important.

Remember, you’ve got the breakthrough action teams that have been out there working on stuff, the OE team, the execs, the steering group. They’ve been interacting and briefed on this. They’ve gone to work, they’ve come up with stuff, and now you’re at the point where they’re ready to make their recommendations, but not yet. You have to prepare the executive team. These are the actual slides that I use. This is the conversation that I have sometimes in a half-day workshop with the decision-makers. I go back to the life cycle. You know, I talk about how this life cycle represents not only the life cycle of a product or the life cycle of a business but also the life cycle of the ideas, paradigms, and the ways that people understand the business that they’re in or the way we’re going to do business, and even the processes and procedures. Everything that you’re counting on right now is somewhere on that life line. The reason you’ve needed breakthrough thinking rather than traditional thinking is that these particular kinds of issues or problems will not be solved by the same level of thinking that created them, as Einstein said. Now, what you need to do is, in a sense, go back to zero and ask yourself, “Okay, who are we now, and what are we trying to accomplish? What if we didn’t have any of these things? What if we didn’t have this organization, or these people, or this structure, or these procedures, or even these products? How would we be organized?” It’s that kind of wiping the slate clean mentally to get ready for new ideas.

It’s needed. What’s needed is to create what I call a breakthrough curve. Go back and look at the video on the life cycle and make sure you understand this. This is what I would do with my clients: get them ready to not only receive the breakthrough curve but to champion it, to get behind it. They’ll end up taking credit for it, basically. But that’s okay. The other thing I do is I talk about different kinds of change. There’s first-order change, which is incremental change, like where things are now and where they need to be later. We make small steps to get there. Kaizen continuous improvement is absolutely essential for any healthy organization to know how to move things forward. It requires a stable environment and very simple change that’s not very complex but is possible to do with minimal impact on the organization. Another is planned change. This is what’s called change management, as you’ll see in one of my videos. The only problem with change management is it rarely works. It doesn’t get you the change that you’re after. Why? Because it doesn’t fundamentally grapple with the paradigms inside that are actually producing the problems. But this is what managers and leaders prefer because it gives the illusion of control, and see, chaos is the enemy.

Okay, I don’t know how to have a breakthrough. I don’t know how to have transformation without at least some uncertainty, some confusion, as you’ll see, some chaos. It requires a clear picture of the future state. Now, any executive, any decision-maker that’s honest will tell you that what happens to be about the time you get somewhere in the middle is it changes. So, I don’t care how good the plan is; it’s rarely going to be as smooth and as simple as the PowerPoint slides indicate. What’s probably going to happen is somewhere along the line; you’re going to need what we call second-order or transformational nonlinear change. This is not incremental change of going from one place to another; this is like a quantum leap. What happens is you’ve started experimenting with things. You’ll see this in the other video. It’s more detailed. You experiment, you try things, and all of a sudden, you get to a new place. The trick is that you have to have a strategic intention to get there. The plan is useful, but it’s not useful in the long run. The process itself is going to be chaotic. You need a strong commitment on the part of management to be there. They need to have great courage, and they also need to get feedback and give feedback all through the process. Why? Because you cannot plan your way from A to B; you have to discover your way from A to B, and that includes uncertainty. Why is this the case? Because where do managers and other human beings, like the rest of us, prefer to operate?

If every one of these X’s represents something that’s known and familiar, where do we like to operate? Well, we want to operate as close to those as possible. It ends up these are the familiar habitual things. These are the things that are unknown and unfamiliar. And by operating in here over and over, we create what I call the boundary of the possible. This is what’s possible. Like nobody can run a four-minute mile; that’s outside. That’s just not possible. This is what we know and trust. Now, what happens when someone begins to recommend an idea that’s toward the boundary of the possible? Quite often, they’re seen as troublemakers or crazy, or they won’t be around here for very long. Fear and turbulence immediately go into place. The organization instinctively resists any kind of fundamental change. What does it take? A courageous, mission-oriented set of leaders who say, “You know what, we’re going to put the breakthrough ahead of our egos, ahead of all of our concepts. We’re going to make this thing happen. We’re going to open the door and let this happen.” And when that happens, the boundary of the possible expands. And now, more things are possible than ever were thought possible before. That’s the power of this breakthrough process. It expands the boundary of the possible, expands the size of the organization and its ability to succeed. Then all of a sudden, ideas occur that nobody would have thought about before because suddenly now they’re okay. It’s a fabulous thing to happen. Now that you’ve done that, the next thing is how do you present these breakthrough ideas to decision-makers? And that process is something I’m very proud of because I think I haven’t heard anybody else do it this way. It’s a way that virtually guarantees not 100%, but close acceptance of these breakthrough ideas by the decision-makers. And that’s what’s next.


This insightful video delves into essential survival skills for navigating today’s workplace challenges. Covering skills seven to ten, it emphasizes the importance of developing courage to face challenges (symbolized by “tigers”), mastering cross-functional teamwork, adapting to rapid change, and finding purpose beyond routine tasks. The author encourages readers to view their work as contributing to a larger purpose, urging them to quit a mundane job and discover work that aligns with personal passions and makes a meaningful impact. With a focus on personal development, organizational growth, and effective teamwork, the video provides practical advice for thriving in the dynamic modern workplace.

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