Top 5 Ways to Turnaround a Process in Decline

I talked here about the Inevitable Decline. It happened in a football game a couple of weeks ago. It happens in every evenly matched sporting event, and it happens in the evolution and development of any organization. Things will decline over time.

So how do you actually pull up from the decline?

I’ve been slowly reading Ray Dalio’s Principles. It’s full of his ideas about management and building a successful organization.

He spends a lot of time talking about the loop below.

Dalio calls this the Progress Loop or a Personal Evolutionary Process. The loop highlights the five steps to emerge from an Inevitable Decline and to improve a process.

Within Dalio’s curve, between steps 1 & 2, is a declining curve. This is the Inevitable Decline. Dalio’s process is a model to identify the causes of the decline, to pull up from that curve and to push forward.

Here are the steps that Dalio lays out:

1. GOALS: Have a clear goal in mind. What is it you want to do? In Atlanta, a week ago, a team wanted to win the game and a National Championship. You may want to build a successful team or launch a new product. The goal must be clear to you and well-articulated across the team.

2. PROBLEMS: The Inevitable Decline. This is my term. Dalio calls it “Identifying the Problems.” The decline comes with a decrease in output or energy. Or maybe it comes from unexpected competitive pressures. I saw it in the National Championship game. UGA struggled in the 2nd half as Alabama scored points, and climbed back into the game. This decline is natural. It’s a part of evolution and part of the human condition. It will always occur.

3. DIAGNOSIS: Accurately Diagnose the Problems. You need to look hard at the reasons for the decline. Why did UGA struggle? From my seats in the nosebleed section, I saw a lack of creativity in the game plan and a lack of depth on the defense. However, these diagnoses need to be discussed with others to get their perspective and viewpoints. You need to seek out unique takes on the problem to ensure you don’t have blindspots. These discussions need to be frank and perhaps painful to develop a clear view of what happened.

4. DESIGN: Design a Plan. Based on the discussions, what will you do now? How will UGA address the shortfalls? This is turning the problems from #3 into a set of concrete actions that can be carried forward next time.

5. DOING: Push Through to Completion. This is ensuring you have the discipline to institute your changes and ideas. It’s holding yourself and the organization accountable to the plan. It’s also recognizing that if you do not do something different, you will likely face #2 again.

The steps are a helpful model of how I can improve problems at work on a regular basis, and how I can evolve as a leader. I’m sure coaches of the University of Georgia are doing the same thing somewhere as they lick their wounds and plan for next season.

technologist, cultural omnivore, book nut, father

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