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Imagine Ultimate Perfection to Help Shrink Your Work Week to Two Hours
by Donald Mitchell

To get your week's work done in 2 hours, you'll need to become 20 times more effective, a 2,000 percent solution. The steps for creating a 2,000 percent solution (accomplishing 20 times more with the same time, effort, and resources) are listed here:

1. Understand the importance of measuring performance.

2. Decide what to measure.

3. Identify the future best practice and measure it.

4. Exceed the future best practice.

5. Identify the ideal best practice.

6. Pursue the ideal best practice.

7. Select people with the optimal talents and encourage them to succeed.

8. Repeat the first seven steps.

This essay looks at eliminating mental barriers that make it difficult to accomplish step five.

Remove Blinders to Envision Perfection

The ideal best practice is simply the most effective process that can possibly be accomplished by anyone over the next five years. It will usually exceed the future best practice by a wide margin, and the ideal best practice reflects a performance level that might not normally be reached for decades. Here's an example: In corporate communications, an ideal best practice would mean having all employees receive, understand, and act on a message in appropriate ways within a few seconds. We know that's possible because people after seeing a large fire, smelling smoke, and hearing a fire alarm will begin evacuating a building in that amount of time. By comparison, your organization's performance today represents a tiny fraction of what is possible. People perform nearly perfectly all the time in many different ways. Put those perfectly performing people into an organization, and it's often the same as removing 99 percent of their intelligence. That's the negative consequence that follows from employing poorly designed processes.

Before searching out the ideal best practice for your process, let us observe that you are seeing the ideal best practices of near perfection all around you on a daily basis. But chances are that you don't notice the near perfection at all. Instead, your focus is probably on what isn't working well -- and becoming either frustrated or annoyed.

Get the Message of Why Near-Perfection Routinely Occurs

Here are questions that my clients and students have found to be mind-opening. These questions provide the key to exponential success. Most people can do this exercise in less than an hour. But even if you spend more time, you'll be way ahead of those who never answer these questions. Keep in mind that understanding is more important than speed.

• What are 50 examples of how individuals perform near perfection on a regular basis?

• What are 50 examples of how people in groups perform near perfection on a regular basis?

• Why do these near-perfect performances occur?

• What's missing from your organization's approach to its most important tasks so that near-perfect performance can be achieved?

Here's an example to help you get started: Employees are very good at cashing their paychecks. Rarely do paychecks go uncashed. Why? Unless employees are extremely wealthy or unusually forgetful, they will feel the need to cash or deposit their paychecks in order to buy food, pay for shelter, and run the rest of their lives. For most people, not cashing a paycheck would be like trying to hold your breath for the rest of your life. It's an activity that cannot be maintained. Many examples of near-perfection draw on these elements: It's a natural thing to do; people enjoy doing it; the consequences of not doing it are extreme; people understand the consequences and know exactly what they have to do.

How High Is Up?

Managers often feel confused when they try to decide how tough to make corporate improvement goals. Imagine that your organization's output has been rising at 5 percent a year in units while revenues per employee have grown at 3 percent a year. Many will be tempted to choose this historical performance as a target.

Most leaders will choose goals that are 30 to 50 percent likely to be reached. Setting more challenging goals often stimulates higher performance by making the tasks more interesting for employees and other stakeholders. But it's harmful to set high goals without providing a clear direction for how to succeed and helping employees gain confidence about reaching the goals.

Utilizing the ideal best practice focus provides a major improvement in goal setting by identifying both a higher standard and one that is achievable and credible to employees. In essence, you get more stretch with the same degree of psychological comfort.

Here's an example of how one man created vast wealth for his family simply by thinking about the ideal best practice. Early in the 20th century, no one knew how to recover the oil and gas under a body of water, whether that water was a lake, a bayou, or the ocean. One visionary wildcatter had the foresight to realize that someday it would be possible to drill inexpensively in shallow water. He looked for acreage where there were successful oil or gas wells in surrounding bodies of water, and he bought the mineral rights under the water, even though no one yet knew how to drill there. He was confident there was oil and gas there, and he was mostly right. For pennies an acre, he ultimately added tens of millions of dollars to his family estate. How did he identify such a possibility? While the actual best practice of the day didn't permit drilling for petroleum in shallow water, technology did exist then to build structures in shallow water (he had seen piers and bridges jutting up from the ocean floor and lake beds) and laying watertight pipelines. If these capabilities were combined, he reasoned, it would be possible to drill and transport petroleum products from wells located underwater. He estimated that the cost would be about four times the usual cost. To offset that expected cost, he looked for dry land wells that produced at least four times the usual volume for successful wells.

You can apply similar ways of thinking to anticipate where breakthroughs can be made in the next few years and seize major advantages by pursuing those opportunities before they are perceived by others. By grasping the best opportunities for your organization, competitors will be left fighting over less favorable options when they finally realize what they are missing. Your advantages will be well entrenched when that realization occurs.

Copyright 2007 Donald W. Mitchell, All Rights Reserved

Donald Mitchell may be contacted at

Donald Mitchell is chairman and CEO of Mitchell and Company, a strategy and financial consulting firm in Weston, MA. He is coauthor of six books including The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, and The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook. You can find free tips for accomplishing 20 times more by registering at:



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