Leadership / Management

12 steps to find and seize great opportunities

Today's post is an oldie but a goodie (a post from the past).

It has been said that Michelangelo could "see" David inside the big block of stone and then simply removed the excess stone. We often marvel at people who have the vision to see those breakthrough opportunities and industry game-changers, but research shows that this can be learned and systematically applied.

Seeing David in the Stone, a book by James Schwartz, shows you how. Jim has spent his life in manufacturing companies and consulting on lean manufacturing and lean accounting, but this book goes way beyond L-E-A-N. It is for anyone who wants to find and seize breakthrough opportunities that are required to stay competitive in today's environment.

I had an opportunity to interview Jim and his daughters (who are also in the business) at a Lean Accounitng Summit Conference at which I was speaking. Their thoughts are summarized as "Finding Great Opportunities" (steps 1-4), "Mobilize Support" (steps 5-8) and "Seize Great Opportunities" (steps 9-12).

Here are Jim's 12 steps:

  1. Differentiate yourself for opportunityDsc05591_3.
  2. Use powerful learning processes.
  3. Learn to envision opportunities.
  4. Select only high-leverage opportunities.
  5. Find the highest meanings of others.
  6. Co-create with those eager for opportunity.
  7. Sell the opportunity to those who are cautious.
  8. Find common meaning with and negotiate with opposers.
  9. Use superior design and planning processes.
  10. Seize rapidly at high-leverage points.
  11. Deliver rewards.
  12. Develop other innovators and high achievers.

Lean_swartz_10pct_2 Why do you need to do this? Swartz would say, "Simply to survive." He argues that every business needs to increase its value offerings in the market and reduce costs by 10 percent per year to survive. Jim told powerful stories of how these principles were applied by 70 great leaders, from Michaelango to Bill Gates.

Two things really resonated for me:

  1. Jim's principles consider the realities of change management and the adoption curve in getting buy-in.
  2. The stories and insights are developed from the failures of great leaders as much as the successes.