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Breakthrough Process – High Engagement Performance Improvement

The Breakthrough Process is a dynamic approach to organizational change and improvement, applicable to organizations of any size. It follows three essential phases, with each phase consisting of three key steps. The process begins by preparing the organization, aligning projects with strategic objectives, and readying leaders and stakeholders. Next comes the diagnosis phase, where frontline employees facilitate the collection of data and the Organization Effectiveness (OE) team and performing teams analyze it. Prioritizing and identifying “logjams” follows, paving the way for small teams to work on high-priority issues. Finally, the last phase generates the breakthroughs, which are presented to decision-makers, ensuring proper accountability and tracking of change implementation. This comprehensive approach promotes high engagement and fosters significant performance improvements throughout the organization.


Breakthrough process, high engagement, performance improvement. Boy, there’s a lot packed into this description. This is kind of my way of doing organizational change. I’ve used it this basic model. I’ve used this process in organizations as large as 120,000 people, once in 26 states in America, and as small as a dental office with about 6 or 8 people in it. You can use this for any size organization, and it’s adaptable. I’m sure you will change it. This is my pulling things together from my mentors’ herb Shepherd, Ron Lippitt, Jack Sherwood, Bob Crosby and Marv Weisbord and others. So take this and do what you want with it. But it’s a way of engaging the entire organization in identifying and then going to work on things that are affecting performance. Okay, here we go. It’s based on the action research model developed by Kurt Levine years and years ago. That’s fundamental to our field of applied behavioral science. This is my kind of working definition of finding out what is happening, what’s really happening and why with the key stakeholders. This is the research part, okay. Finding out what is happening and why, and getting that data on the table to be discussed and interpreted in a safe environment by those very same people who were involved and who are empowered to act. Key principle the data is being gathered and worked with by some of the very people that are working on that has the power in and of itself to transform people, situations and the system, which is action.

As Kurt Levine said, no action without research, no research without action. This is my way of putting that together and operationalize it into a model. So here we go. It has three basic stages. And I use this process in three different ways. I’ve used it to create proposals for clients. This slide is in many of our proposals. Secondly, we use it to design what we’re going to do with our colleagues. And third, we use it to explain what we’re doing to the organization over and over and over again, explaining it to managers, leaders and other stakeholders. Now it has three sort of layers or phases. The first one is preparing the organization. Secondly, it’s diagnosing the situation. And third, it’s generating the breakthroughs. These are very distinct phases that require a lot of special attention. Each of these phases have three steps in them. So it makes a wonderful sort of nine cell matrix. The first step is in project planning. You’ve got to do the planning in such a way that your project is connected with the strategic objectives of the organization. Now I’m going to have a video on each of this nine, okay. But I’m just going to mention it right now. Make sure that your project is connected and people see the connection between what you’re proposing and what really happens in the organization. Second, you’ve got to prepare managers, leaders and other stakeholders for this process. They will not do it naturally. But listen, the reason for the project is to create change, to create breakthroughs.

Who’s going to be the most threatened? The people that are managers who are supposed to be managing the organization. It takes a lot of courage for them to open up their organization to somebody like you or me, coming in and creating this big process that’s going to generate breakthrough ideas from below as well as from them. That takes a lot of guts. So you’ve got to prepare the managers for this to happen. Third step is you identify and train an OE or organization effectiveness team. This, as you’ll see later, these are real people coming from across the organization who actually carry out a great deal of the process. Once that’s done, you move to part two, which is diagnosing the situation. And here the diagnosis is carried out by frontline people, facilitated by OE team members. Okay. It’s not done by outside consultants. We might support the process, but it’s carried out by their own people. And so the diagnosis is done by people internally. Very powerful. It’s a great way to go. A lot of good things come from that. The fifth stage is that the OE team and frontline performing teams go about analyzing that data. It’s not up to us as outside consultants to analyze the data, which you would do in a traditional consulting process. We add our insights. We certainly add what we see, but it’s up to the people in the organization themselves. The diagonal slice representative group that that analyzes what the data means and identifies and prioritizes.

What are the most important logjams. My good friend Toradol is made up this phrase Logjams that, if you break them loose, will help the organization perform better. And then finally small teams go to work on these high priority items. Now, at that point, you’re beginning to generate the breakthroughs you prepare for the decision makers. The managers again, you prepare them, not just up here. You come back and prepare them again, because there’s going to be a meeting where these breakthrough ideas are going to be presented to them. I’ve never had it fail that breakthrough ideas. Breakthrough ideas are always generated by these small teams working. If there’s a failure, and I’ve had 3 or 4 in my career, the failure has been my fault. Not their fault for not preparing the managers and having them ready for these breakthrough ideas. The four failures I’ve had have been a result of people presenting breakthrough ideas and management kind of going, oh, or something like that, and then nothing happening. The situations were worse. It’s worse to do that than not do anything at all. The eight step is that there’s a presentation made to these decision makers. And then on the ninth step, these actions are put into place and are tracked and people are held accountable for change. This process is its magic. Follow these three distinct phases. These eight steps, nine steps. And see if you don’t see breakthroughs happening more and more and more in your change practice.


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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