Leadership lessons from the private sector can be applied to schools. Leadership is leadership. How would you apply the ideas of tactical performance and adaptive performance to your school?
In 2007 Harvard Business School professor Ethan S. Bernstein studied assembly-line performance at a company he called “Precision.”
Based in Southern China, Precision was the second-largest manufacturer of cell phones in the world at the time. Precision made it easy for managers to oversee their employees. Every spot on every line was visible to managers. Every step of the process was measured, and real-time metrics were easily accessible. Workers were carefully trained to follow processes exactly as they were laid out.
But Bernstein and his team observed that when managers were not watching, employees secretly developed and shared better ways of doing the work. When Bernstein hid a set of production lines from managers’ view, the performance of employees on those lines increased by 10% to 15%. It turns out that when employees felt that they were being monitored, they felt pressured to stick to “proven” methods. They couldn’t adapt to improve their work.
Our research into over 20,000 workers of all skill levels across U.S. industries, and a review of hundreds of academic studies on the psychology of human performance, shows that most leaders and organizations tend to focus on just one type of performance. But there are two types that are important for success.
The first type is known as tactical performance.
The second type, known as adaptive performance, is how effectively your organization diverges from its strategy.