A deadline was missed, and the customer is angry; a quality defect led to a recall; or the project is over-budget and out of time. If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you probably know what comes next – the search for a cause. In the best organizations this quest for answers is a productive growth exercise; in the worst, it is a search for scapegoats.  

If you find yourself leading your organization through such an exercise, I have good news. You have the opportunity to create a culture of growth and improvement that will exponentially increase the potential of your team. If you follow these 5 basic steps, you will transform your organization from tactical, fighting to win the battle at hand, to strategic, fighting to win the war.

Step 1 - Create the Vision: What does the ideal situation look like? Be specific, this is not a time for platitudes. Make sure they are measurable. Goals do no good if you don't know if you are meeting them. For example, "as an organization, all projects should finish within 5% of their forecasted budgets."

Step 2- Identify the Gaps: Determine where you as an organization are falling short. Sometimes this can be difficult. Consider enlisting a consultant to evaluate your organization, talking to your peers at other organizations, or finding mentors that can provide guidance.

Step 3 - Investigate: Every gap in every organization can be traced to two basic root causes.

1) Knowledge: “I don't know the right thing to do”

2) Discipline: “I know the right thing to do, but the processes are not put in place to ensure that I do it,” or worse, “the processes prohibit me from doing what I know is right.”

Understand which bucket your gaps fall into and understand which gaps are creating the most pain.

Step 4 - Attack: Treat each gap as its own project. Create a solution and implement. If there are numerous gaps, attack them in order of the which gaps are causing the most pain.

Step 5- Plan for the future: Install a continuous improvement process that will periodically measure how well you are meeting the vision and address any gaps.

If you take these steps, not only will you have fixed the reason for the original failure, but you will ensure that you become intentional in your growth as an organization.