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Outside-In Leadership: Adding Value to Society


Ever wonder why so many performance improvement efforts that are successful in the workplace never seem to have the impact on the organization that were hoped for? 


Some products add to the entire value chain, but most are left to dwell in the depths of operation.


The same is likely true for what we do to and for our bodies.  Based on wanting to help ourselves, such as losing weight, taking vitamins and supplements, and exercising—based on the newest self-help books, ads, friends, and well-intentioned advice—they often don’t make any difference, sometimes make things worse, and sometimes make us feel better. Sometimes.


Sound familiar?  We start from the here-and-now and assume or hope good things will happen.


For health, we are better off getting a full health condition assessment, just like what we get from a comprehensive health evaluation.  Based on the vital signs, blood chemistry and other tests, one is better able to select those interventions that will help make us fit, healthy, and live longer. We best start from the outside rather than the inside for helping our health.The same is for worthy performance improvement and performance accomplishment. 


Start from the outside-in rather than the usual and initially more comfortable (and conventional) inside-out. 


Figure 1. Outside-in vs. Inside-out planning. (Kaufman, 2006) 



Let’s see (Figure 1) using the Organizational Elements Model (Kaufman, 1998, 2000, 2006, 20ll) with the three levels of results:

  • Mega—Societal contributions

  • Macro—Organizational contributions

  • Micro—Individual and small group contributions






If we start from the Outside-in I suggest we will have more sustainable and worthy success.


Conventional approaches in our field start inside at the Micro level, identify gaps in performance, and then design, develop, and implement ways and means to close those gaps.  We collect data and validate our success. But how often to we check to see if we also added value at the Macro and Mega levels?  Sometimes (c.f. Addison & Hague, 2009) but rarely.


Lots of time and money are spent on this, but we often don’t calculate our return on investment (Bernardez, 2018; Kirpartick,1994; Phillips, 1997).


We hope for the best, but don’t often prove it (as does Bernardez, 2018; Bernardez et al.,2012; Kaufman, 2011)


It is better to start outside the organization (asking ‘if my organization is the solution what’s the problem?’) and roll down to identify gaps in performance (needs) that should be closed to add value at all levels of a planning hierarchy (Kaufman, 2018)….Mega, Macro, and Micro and the processes and resources that will deliver worthy results.


Doing so will be unorthodox and unconventional.  It will also cost less and be more successful.




Addison, R., Haig, C., & Kearny, (2009). Performance Architecture: The Art and Science of Improving Organizations. San Francisco, CA.


Bernardez, M., R., Krivatsy, A., Arias, C. & Kaufman. (2012). City Doctors: A Systemic Approach to Transform Colon City, Panama. Performance Improvement Quarterly. 24(4), pp. 41-60.


Bernardez, M. (2018).  Mega and City Doctors: Applications and Consequences. Performance Improvement Journal. Vol. 57, No. 6. Pp. 15-23.


Kaufman, R.  (1998). Strategic Thinking: A Guide to Identifying and Solving Problems. Revised. Washington, DC & Arlington, VA: The International Society for Performance Improvement and the American Society for Training & Development.


Kaufman, R. (2000). Mega Planning: Practical Tools for Organizational Success. Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage Publications.


Kaufman, R. (2006). Change, Choices, and Consequences: A Guide to Mega Thinking and Planning. Amherst, MA. HRD Press Inc.


Kaufman, R. (2011) A Manager’s Pocket Guide to Strategic Thinking and Planning. Amherst, MA. HRD Press, Inc.


Kirkpatrick, D. L. (1994).  Evaluating Training Programs: The Four Levels. San Francisco: Berret-Koehler.


Phillips, J.J. (1997).  Return on Investment in Training and Performance Improvement Programs. Butterworth-Heinemann.




Kaufman, R. (2020). Outside-in and Inside-Out Planning. Business Science Magazine, 11-13.





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