The Three Laws Of Performance: Rewriting The Future Of Your Organization And Your Life

The Three Laws Of Performance: Rewriting The Future Of Your Organization And Your Life

  • Publish Date: 2009-02-03
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Author: Steve Zaffron Dave Logan
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Jossey-Bass
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A proven system for rallying all of an organizations' employees around a new vision and ideas for making the vision stick

When something at work isn't going smoothly, managers struggle with what part of the problem to tackle first. Do they start with cost reduction? Or should they go for process improvements first? The authorswho have helped hundreds of companies and individuals change and improvesay spend time and money adjusting the systems in which people operate, rather than targeting people and their performance directly. The authors show that it's in fact possible to change everything at oncewith a focus on making such transformations permanent and repeatable.

  • Brand-new Introduction written for the paperback edition
  • Filled with illustrative examples from Northrup Grumman, BHP-Billiton, Reebok, Harvard Business School, and many others
  • Two experts in the field show how to make major transformations happen

The book outlines a process for engaging all employees to buy-in to an improved vision of an organization's new and improved future.




Amazon-Exclusive Q&A with Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan
Author Steve Zaffron
What are the three laws of performance?

The laws of performance are universal. That is, any time people are involved in a situation, the laws apply. They arent steps or tips, but general principles that are always at work. They are also phrased in a precise way, to give maximum insight and applicability. The laws are:

1. How people perform correlates to how situations occur to them.
2. How situations occur arises in language.
3. Future based language transforms how situations occur to people.

In your opinion, what do leaders struggle with the most and how can the laws help them?
The two biggest issues we hear from leaders are lack of buy-in and an absence in ownership. The first problem often becomes acute when the leaders, working with experts, determine what plan people should implement, and the work force doesnt want to do it, or doesnt engage with passion. Many leaders try to solve the resulting issues with incentives, which often make the problem worse, as Daniel Pinks book Drive demonstrates.

The second problem--absence of ownership--is related to lack of buy-in, but runs deeper. The problem, as many leaders have expressed to us, is that people dont treat the business as though its their business. In some cases, it literally is their business, for example when people have some equity in the company through stock options. Yet even in many of these situations, people dont act as though they are owners. Many leaders have expressed that nothing they ever tried has fixed the ownership problem.

The Three Laws of Performance can help with both problems by encouraging leaders to see that peoples actions are correlated to how situations occur to them. The second and third laws, taken together, say that future-based languagesuch as declarations, promises, and commitmentstransform how situations occur to people. By focusing on the way in which things are occurring to the people, their actions naturally shift. The point is clear when we remember that the Declaration of Independence transformed how the experience of being a colonist occurred for the colonists. The facts hadnt changedthe British still asserted their control. But the actions of the colonists shifted in a dance with the Declaration. What had been skirmishes by the colonists now became full-scale war and eventually the birth of a nation.

Author Dave Logan
The same situation happened recently in Egypt, when decades of tyrannical rule ended in 18 days. What really happened is that the situations occurred in a new way to Egyptians, and their actions naturally shifted. Imagine this level of empowerment and engagement in your organization. Using these three laws in an organization calls forth peoples participation and involvement in surprising and exciting new ways.

It seems that people can apply the lessons here in many ways how they communicate, how they think, how they act. Since publishing the hardcover version is there a way that stands out to you?
Since were writing about laws, and not tips or techniques, there is not a single way. Rather, there is a general flow of conversations that taps into the power of the Three Laws. The flow goes something like this:

1. Ask people: what is the default future? That is, what do people see coming at them in the future, almost for certain and unless something completely unexpected happens? Getting and experiencing what people see as the default future gives everyone insights into how people are experiencing the organization and their opportunities in it.
2. Go deeper:, asking people: if this default future existed throughout the organization, what actions would people find themselves taking, perhaps even without thinking? Even though people may not want the default future, it acts as a mostly unspoken, often unconscious, self-fulfilling prophecy. People find themselves making it happen through their actions. Getting people to see their role in this process is critical. People created the default future, and are actively bringing it about. The same people can rewrite the future.
3. Ask people: is this default future what you want? If the answer is a resounding no, they have the ability to set the default future aside and create something new.
4. Invite people to consider this question: what do you really want instead? People should speculate until a new futuretechnically, called an invented future, takes shape. For an invented future to be effective, it must take peoples individual concerns into account, as well as the concerns of the organization and its stakeholders.

5. Develop projects that make realize an aspect of the invented future.

As people successfully implement the projects resulting from this flow, the invented future occurs as more attainable to people. Over time, people will find themselves acting in line with the invented future. There are no steps required, no need to remember to act in a certain way. Elevated performance is now natural and automatic.

In your new epilogue to the paperback edition you zero on the three critical implications for leadership SINCE the first version in hardcover came out. Which one really stands out and why ?

The fundamental aspect of leadership that most people miss is the importance of listening. Listening, as we describe it, is not simply gathering data and opinions from people, but rather exploring how situations occur to them, what they aspire to make happen, and what stands in their way. By listening in this way, leaders combine what they hear from lots of people into an invented future that represents the bulk of peoples concerns. When people hear the invented future, they say, That speaks for me! because it is, in part, their idea. Lack of buy-in and ownership are replaced with excitement, inspired action, and full engagement.

People seem to describe this as a different type of business book? Why is that?
In working with our editor, Warren Bennis, our goal was not to write another list of steps or platitudes. Frankly, such books accomplish little more than short-term motivation, or incremental improvement. Our goal was to focus on the fundamental laws that govern human performance. We didnt set out to write a simple book, but rather, a book that would make an impact. People have told us that the Three Laws of Performance has allowed them to approach old problems in new ways, and often move to elevated performance in much shorter time, and with less effort, than they had thought possible.

This book taps into what appears to be a shift in organizations to more openness, transparency etc. Do you agree? How so ?
Yes, we agree. Organizations are going through a shift for a variety of reasons, perhaps most importantly the ability to connect with other people. Years ago, companies could hide activities, especially in the developing world. Today, these activities are captured by cell phones and shared on social media. Theres really no place to hide anymore. As a result, organizations need to transform adversarial relationships with governments, local populations, unions, and communities, into partnerships. Doing so requires really grasping why people do what they do. We believe the Three Laws of Performance gives leaders a unique insight into how to make this shift one in a way that inspires greater levels of satisfaction, results, and the experience of making a difference.

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