Seeking consistency and predictability – a recipe for poor performance

In a complex changing world we need to adapt if we wish to deliver the best possible outcomes.  Sticking to a plan or to objectives we set some time ago might feel reassuring but it probably means that we will suboptimise.  When opportunities present themselves, do we respond or do we stick to our current objectives and goals?

Consider the drive to “reduce variation” in processes.  As we apply clearer, tighter controls we also reduce the ability of the system to adapt and change.  When we want to change (to adapt and improve) we not only have to change our policies, processes or rules.  We also have to get permission to work outside expectations, outside norms, outside existing controls.   Often, deciding what to change turns out to be the easy part.

While individuals can be “risk averse” by nature, much of our innovation challenge lies with business systems that fight against change, against difference, against variability.   The question for leaders is not just about creating a culture of change and adaptation.  They also need to know how to create business systems that drive for maximum performance even as contexts change, rather than business systems that ensure objectives and plans are met and standards are achieved.

Are your business systems holding you back?  To explore this further contact Richard Barber at