A R T I C L E
Results—And Get Them
by Robert H. Schaffer
P R O D U C T N U M B E R 4 4 9 5
New sections to
guide you through
• The Idea in Brief
• The Idea at Work
• Exploring Further . . .
What do underachieving
businesses need most?
Not a new process or
but rather, management’s
FROM THE HARV ARD BUSINESS REVIEW
T key to a company’s turnaround is typi-
cally not some labor-saving technology, corpo-
rate restructuring, or change in personnel. All
these factors can be beneficial, but the critical
event is usually something more fundamental:
it’s when management becomes committed to
expecting higher levels of performance.
The capacity to demand better results seems
like such a simple thing, but in fact it may be
the most universally underdeveloped manage-
ment skill. Managers must overcome psycho-
logical obstacles and directly confront areas of
organizational resistance. Clearing away these
stumbling blocks is no mean feat, but the organi-
zational focus that results can be astonishing.
Demand Better Results—And Get Them
A that significant gains are possi-
ble can be a threatening experience for man-
agers. It increases the risk of resistance from
subordinates. Some managers worry about
being resented or rejected by subordinates;
others worry about being embarrassed if the
ambitious goals aren’t achieved. Moreover, not
meeting the goals raises the prospect of having
to take drastic (read: unpleasant) action.
These worries function like stealth weapons.
The psychological damage they cause goes
unnoticed because managers haven’t articulated
the fears to begin with. What’s more, various
avoidance mechanisms connive to perpetuate
the illusion that significant performance
improvement is impossible:
• rationalization. Through this process, man-
agers are able to convince themselves
they’ve done all they can do to create high
expectations—and that employees are
already doing their best.