Breaking Away from the Herd

Horse

In today’s world, where best practice and evidence-based practice and the push to achieve specific performance measures are often heralded (and funded) as THE path to success, it seems we have lost sight of the fact that while these things may be effective in achieving one specific outcome, they are not the panacea for organizational impact or finding new ways to solve stubborn challenges.

I’m not saying there is no value in “best practice.” I think there is. We have trained our staff in six different evidence based practices, and I believe they are an important part of our success . . . but no more so than our willingness to also try new, untested, creative strategies for overcoming our biggest obstacles. When we stop looking in new directions because others have chosen to fund and build rules around following one single path we, in effect, give up on finding new, perhaps better, solutions. Are you willing to sacrifice that possibility for the comfort of following the herd?

As Gary Keller and Jay Papasan noted in their book The One Thing, “Anyone who dreams of an uncommon life eventually discovers there is no choice but to seek an uncommon approach to living it.” Translated into organizational language, if we want to have an uncommon (new/breakthrough/life-changing) impact on those we strive to serve, it is unlikely we will get there by simply following the “standardized” path. We have to break away from the herd and chart our own course. Granted, that sounds great in theory, but it can be much harder in actual practice. For example . . .

Our organization provides services to struggling children and their families. We are paid to provide services to kids. We believe the best way to have a lasting positive impact on a child is to serve the whole family — in fact, the first item on our list of “how we do things around here” says “The client is the family system.” We are paid to provide services to kids. So we have to make hard choices about investing in a new path, one that we believe will yield better results for our young people, even if the current rules and funding are a deterrent to forging that path.

If being successful were simply a matter of following the status quo, we wouldn’t need leaders, just obedient followers. The leader’s challenge is to determine when to follow the proven path and when you need to step out in a new direction — because to do any less would be to settle for stopping short of your mission.

Maybe it’s time to take a deep breath and break away from the herd.

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