Neil Smith helps Fortune 750 companies dramatically improve performance by increasing profitability.

Read Neil’s Letter to Leaders

I am starting off with an assumption – your company is already an excellent one and you are continually striving for ways to make it even better. But even in excellent companies, there is a huge opportunity for improvement. In fact, that opportunity exists in every company, no matter its size, its industry, or whether it has previously undertaken major improvement initiatives.

The opportunity exists because within your company, your employees can tell you literally thousands of ways to do things better.  But there is something else you have: barriers that prevent these actions from being implemented. In the more than 20 years I have spent helping great leaders make their companies more profitable and less complex, I have come to realize that every company, large or small, whether an industry leader or an industry laggard, is plagued with the same eight barriers that prevent great ideas from being implemented.  The 8 barriers are “natural” – they are caused both by human behavior and by the necessary structure of your company.  And because they are natural they will continue to remain unless you do something about them.


  1. Avoiding Controversy
  2. Poor Use of Time
  3. Reluctance to Change
  4. Organizational Silos
  5. Management Blockers
  6. Incorrect Information and Bad Assumptions
  7. Size Matters
  8. Existing Processes

But identifying the barriers (whose leading letters form the easily memorized acronym “A Promise) is only the first step in breaking them down. You also need a process to do so. The process that I use (which certainly isn’t the only effective process for change) is governed by 12 principles. This combination of process and principles can help companies break down the barriers and allow thousands of opportunities for improvement to be agreed and implemented.  How big a difference does this make? Companies I have worked with have all seen literally thousands of ideas emerge resulting in, on average, a profit boost of 25 percent. But just as important, companies have become less complex and far easier for customers to do business with.

Many years ago, when I discovered that every company was sitting on a gold mine, I was so excited and passionate about it that I couldn’t understand why all companies wouldn’t immediately stop what they were doing and turn to barrier busting. The problem is that leaders like you can undertake perhaps only three major initiatives a year out of many to choose from. A major project to break barriers and significantly improve performance competes for an executive’s time with many other initiatives. The challenge for the leader is: When is the right time to undertake such a project? The right time comes for every company, yet companies can always find excuses for not undertaking change. But sooner or later, every company has to figure out ways to reduce complexity and boost the bottom line.

There is a cost of delay.  If your company could gain the average 25 percent increase in profitability that comes from a change project, every two weeks that you delay is costing your company one of those percentage points. But delay is costing you in other ways as well. You are losing the opportunity to engage your workforce in an exciting initiative to improve both the employee and the customer experience by reducing complexity.

I always say that the real question a company should answer is not why should you undertake a barrier-busting project but: Why wouldn’t you do it?


Neil Smith