Opportunities vs. Good Ideas

I’ve decided to embark on a series of posts that walk through my Performance Improvement Process model (below) to add some narrative to each of the steps. First up is “Performance problem or Opportunity.” I want to look directly at the opportunity – and then tackle the problem in the next post.

Have you ever had a boss that comes to you and exclaims “HEY! I’ve got a great idea!!” You have suffered the boss’s good ideas before and you know it’s going to be a long day.

The key difference between an opportunity and a good idea is its alignment – or not – to the individual, organizational and societal contributions that your organization exists to produce.

Oh no! It’s the Good Idea Fairy!

An opportunity will increase the value of your organizational outcomes by improving results at one or more of the three levels. A good idea on the other hand will make work, expend resources and possibly look productive in the short term, without contributing real value at any level.

Describe the Good Idea Fairy? Okay then! This example comes from a large government organization. I was approached by my boss with his weekly great idea. “I want you to find out how much it will cost to get ten video cameras for each school.” The red flags immediately started flying! Having been sent on a number of these “missions” in the past, I knew it was time to dig a little bit and get some details before expending any effort. “Why?” I asked. “I have solved the problem of converting classroom training to e-Learning!” My boss beamed proudly. The senior managers in the organization had directed that as much training as possible should be converted to online delivery without understanding the resource and funding requirements to achieve this lofty goal. “How will we do that with video cameras?” I pressed. “Simple. We will record the instructors giving the lectures in the classroom and put it in the Learning Management System (LMS). Then the instructors will have time to add to the videos and make them into better e-learning while the next group of students watch the videos!”

If you, my reader, come from the learning field – you already see a host of problems with this “good idea.” If you don’t, imagine that the training for your new job consisted of watching someone give a presentation in a video. No interaction. No feedback. No activities. Just video, test, video, test, repeat. Other issues with this plan included the level of effort required to put the videos into the LMS with no extra resources to do the work and the fact that the instructors that would do the e-Learning Development to “improve” the videos had zero training in e-Learning design or development. They are truly experts in their field of work that are brought in to do a tour of duty as an instructor before going back to the field.

The boss had the best intentions and was trying his best to accomplish an impossible task. I explained to him that in the short term, more e-Learning would be created, however, the immediate negative impact on the students learning and the longer-term impact of reduced organizational capability created by poorly trained personnel was a significant risk. By the end of the day, the video idea was shelved.

An opportunity is something new that is aligned to the individual, organizational and societal contributions that your organization exists to produce. It will increase the value of your organizational outcomes by improving results at one or more of the levels of worker, work, workplace and the world within which we exist.

7 thoughts on “Opportunities vs. Good Ideas

  1. Hi Brett Do you have any new must-reads in your field that someone interested in HPT might enjoy scanning? Looking to broaden my reading a bit this year. Hope all is well down there!

    Barbara

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    1. Hi Barb, so sorry for the slow reply. It’s been a busy week! One of the most brilliant people in the field was the late Dr. Geary Rummler, who delivered the Principles and Practices of Performance Improvement workshop I attended in 2007 in New York. His book “Serious Performance Consulting” (170 pgs) is exceptional (https://www.amazon.ca/Serious-Performance-Consulting-According-Rummler/dp/0787996165). If you would like a broader view of the field, “The Fundamentals of Performance Improvement” (600 pgs) by Van Tiem, Moseley and Dessinger will take up more of your summer for sure (https://www.amazon.ca/Fundamentals-Performance-Improvement-Optimizing-Organizations/dp/1118025245/). If those don’t fit the bill – give me a call and we can discuss in more detail. Enjoy the Family Day long weekend!

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