Foundations for Transformation

Linking Purpose, People and Process

Executives want better results for several reasons: company survival, shareholder and board demands, as well as personal accomplishment (often tied to bonuses).

When asked what their job is, most executives might respond “to get results.” What kind of results are they interested in? The list (generally in this priority order) goes something like this: profit (net revenue), productivity, market share, quality, customer satisfaction (or loyalty), safety (for their customers and for their employees) and employee engagement.

Simultaneously, employees (at all levels of an organization) deserve and want meaningful work or “work with purpose.” In many organizations we have studied, the efforts to accomplish both better business results and meaningful work have not produced sustained improvement.

Nearly all organizations have attempted some type of company-wide improvement effort, and most managers and workers in organizations have experienced attempts to introduce and implement different management approaches. The experience for most people has been a series of programs (flavors of the month) rather than the pursuit of a philosophy of improvement.

We have observed predictable patterns in companies that pursue company-wide improvement from nearly all industries and share them in this paper. The foundations for transformation can be applied to not only business, but also government and education.

Organizations that attempt a cultural transformation of continuous improvement appear to go through five phases.

Principles For Aligning

We explore three guiding principles that help people to align their daily work to the important work of the organization.

Principles For Enabling

We explore three guiding principles that help to enable people to be engaged in, and improve their work systems.

Principles For Improving

We explore six guiding principles behind the IEX model that help people improve their daily work and lives.

Practical Wisdom for Addressing Problems

Problems are not all the same, and we need to understand the type of knowledge needed to solve different problems. Not understanding this often leads to “flavor of the month” management.

Evolving World View

We have been moving from a “machine” view of the world to a “systems” view. The implications are everywhere.


We share our current thinking about “deploying a cultural transformation” based on the knowledge and contributions of many thought leaders, as well as observing patterns in organizations from many industries that are attempting and succeeding at a cultural and management transformation.

True, True North

As organizations are trying to pursue what is being called “True North,” we have have noticed that the focus is on “results.” While it is important to achieve desired results, this definition of True North is incomplete. We describe what we call the “SEE-DO-GET” relationship which includes a focus on purpose a well as understanding and modeling ideal behaviors

Side (by Side) Management

One of the artifacts from the industrial or “machine” view of management is the image of the organization as a hierarchy. Phrases like “top-down” and “command and control” are associated with this image. However, the hierarchy structure itself (one connected to few, connected to many) has tremendous utility and usefulness in the world we are moving toward. The emerging style of management can use this familiar structure simply by turning it on its side. We call this evolving style “Side (by Side) Management.”

Systems By Design

We share our current thinking about adjusting systems in order to deliver the intended ideal behaviors as well as desired outcomes. Learn about the IEX System Standard that we teach in our “Systems By Design” workshop, and use in our approach to deploying a sustainable culture of continuous improvement.

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