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The 7 Levels of Change

LEVEL 1:  EFFECTIVENESS - DOING THE RIGHT THINGS. The easiest change to make is to learn the basics - what are the right things to do and how to immediately change enough to become effective in a new job. The Pareto Principle states that 20% of the things being done actually yield 80% of the total payoff. To maximize effectiveness, energy must be shifted to and focused on doing that 20% (the right things).

LEVEL 2:  EFFICIENCY - DOING THINGS RIGHT. Level 2 change requires a thorough understanding of all the aspects of the new job or business activity in order to identify and then focus on doing very well those things which have the most important impact and make the largest contribution. Level 2 changes are based largely on personally adjusting to new standards and procedures, and involve coaching or explanations by others familiar with the job or business activity.

LEVEL 3:  IMPROVING - DOING THINGS BETTER. Change at this level involves thinking about ways to improve or fine-tune -- ways to speed things up, shorten delivery time, increase functionality, reduce downtime. Level 3 change makes something more effective, more efficient, more productive, and more value-adding - frequently with customer input.

LEVEL 4:  CUTTING - DOING AWAY WITH THINGS. This level of change involves analysis of core functions and applies the Pareto Principle to focus on stopping doing things - cutting out the 80% of things that only yield 20% of the value. In the simplest case, change at Level 4 focuses on eliminating waste. If this can be done systemically while keeping all organizational interrelationships and subsystems in perspective, major company-wide results can be achieved.

LEVEL 5:  COPYING - DOING THINGS OTHER PEOPLE ARE DOING. Level 5 marks the transition from incremental to fundamental change. Copying, learning from, and "reverse engineering" can dramatically boost innovation at significantly lower costs than starting from scratch. Benchmarking how other organizations are doing things and then enhancing upon their processes is the hallmark of the successful innovator.

LEVEL 6:  DIFFERENT - DOING THINGS NO ONE ELSE IS DOING. Change at Level 6 is about either doing something very different or doing something very differently - and transitions into degrees of novelty which not only move an organization "out-of-the-box", they move the organization into areas where nobody else is doing it. Level 6 is a shift into 3-Sigma thinking. Such trailblazing and greater degrees of risk-taking can bring about genuinely new things, often by synthesizing seemingly unconnected concepts and technologies - or by totally shifting perspective around the possible uses of a product.

LEVEL 7:  IMPOSSIBLE - DOING THINGS THAT CAN'T BE DONE. "What is today impossible, but if it were possible it would fundamentally change the way you do business?" Joel Barker's famous question reframes thinking extremely well for Level 7. Market constraints, resource limitations, or company culture are too often seen as insurmountable barriers. As a result, discoveries at Level 7 frequently build on major mindshifts connected with exploratory thrusts into the unknown - bold, significant and long-term visions and change so different that it cannot be compared to anything else known at the time.

Any change requires time, resources and personal energy. The higher the level of change, the more time, resources and personal energy the change will require in implementation. Further, it is not a straight-line relationship across the 7 levels, it is geometric and explodes in terms of difficulty as the change level increases.

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