Getting Better All the Time
Everything in the world -- people, civilizations, products, businesses, community organizations, religions -- is on one of two paths: the path of growth or the path of decline. Which path are you on, which path is your business/organization on, and how fast are you moving?

Those on the path of growth have found energy and have tapped into that energy to fuel the growth.

Those on the path of decline have lost energy and continue to lose it at a time when they most need it to survive.

We go through life by navigating both paths well, as we will often shift from one path to the other. While on the path of growth, we have the energy and resources to invest in doing the things that will keep us growing - we can be proactive. When on the path of decline, we have dwindling resources and energy to invest in the things that will stop the decline - we must react to our circumstances.

All paths eventually become paths of decline, so to keep on a growth curve, we must become skilled at finding new paths. Whatever we are doing today that produces passion, energy and resources will be different than the things we will do in the future to gain these same returns. This growth/decline model is well-captured in the following chart, and is referred to as the S-Curve.
Phase 1: Focus
Identify a new direction, commit to it, invest in it, and find others who can also gain from it. Value begins to expand over time.

Phase 2: Expand
As value expands, operational capabilities expand as well to meet increasing demand. Replicating the things that spurred growth drives expansion.

Phase 3: Redefine
Growth and demand for the existing direction begins to plateau, and eventually, decline. Soon, a rapid decline occurs, and energy quickly disappears. The choice becomes death or redefinition, finding a new direction.

Learning to Get Better
To grow we must move to an unfamiliar path, at first experiencing the discomfort of investing more than we are getting back. We eventually make our way on this new path or abandon it for another.

A fundamental key to navigating either path has to do with our ability to learn and adapt. We strive to cultivate our reflective learning abilities, that is, our ability to be an observer of our own experience and to gain insight and knowledge from each and every experience. Once we have refined our reflective learning capabilities, we can begin to connect our insights to potential positive changes in behavior, and then decide how we want to proceed.

Reflective learning leads to behavioral change, yet, for most people and for most organizations, is not a natural or even encouraged process. Unfortunately for these organizations, getting better at anything requires learning, and learning requires reflection.

This concept is captured in the following diagram of adult learning, first document by Kolb and then researched and documented by a multitude of others.
The Process of Change
Learning requires insight that is born from reflection. Getting better requires action, change, doing something differently. So for people and organizations to be good at getting better they need to be good at changing. One of the keys to successful change is captured in the Change Model below, developed by Kurt Lewin. This model indicates that behavioral change is a three-step process. It starts with Unfreezing, moves towards Change, and ends with Refreezing.
The Unfreezing stage is closely linked to the Reflection stage in the Adult Learning Model. This is the stage where the insights and ideas that come from experience are considered, evaluated and synthesized. Much of what is being "unfrozen" in this stage are the assumptions, biases, paradigms and points of view that one has. Values and beliefs are challenged and clarified. The core drivers of existing actions and behaviors are assessed.

At the Change stage, testing and experimentation takes place. New ways of being, new attitudes and assumptions, and new behaviors are attempted, and the results are monitored, both formally and informally. This experimentation stage provides the energy for potential sustained change and improvement, which is the end state of the model - change is achieved.

The critical breakthrough that is captured in this model is that sustainable improvement and change starts with reflection, linking the change to existing core values, beliefs and assumptions.

Leading the Process of Getting Better
Change Leaders are trying to find levers for stimulating change in teams, in organizations and in themselves. The two primary levers for stimulating change and for getting better are confronting Brutal Reality and articulating a Compelling Vision. Brutal Reality is a clear picture of the current state, what is working, what is not working, and what pain is being experienced due to existing problems and dysfunctions. A Compelling Vision is a clear, vivid and exciting picture of a future state that is significantly better than what exists today, both in terms of outcomes and results as well as possible pathways to achieve this future state. It is the creative tension that exists between Brutal Reality and a Compelling Vision that provides the energy and motivation for change and improvement.

Leaders are day-to-day teachers of the process of getting better all the time. A key mantra of these leaders is this: "Values Drive Behavior." Creating strong alignment between individual values and resulting actions is the key to high performance. When a group of people operate from a common set of shared values, a team is formed that can achieve unimaginable levels of creativity and commitment. This alignment challenge is captured in the following model of high performance.
VALUES: Your core beliefs

VISION: Why? What is exciting and compelling about the future?

MISSION: What is to be accomplished? What outcomes, outputs?

GOALS: What are the 3 - 4 major aims that are key to the mission?

STRATEGIES: What unique pathways exist to achieve the major aims?

ACTIONS: What activities and behaviors are required to enact the desired strategies?

Getting Better All The Time is about navigating the two paths, the path of Growth and the Path of Decline. The creative tension between these two conflicting worlds will provide a wealth of ideas for action, and selecting the best ideas and turning them into action is what makes the difference. Our ability to find the next growth curve for ourselves and for our organizations ultimately determines our own success in impacting the world.

"Two paths converged in the wood, and I, I chose the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference."
- Robert Lee Frost