The Three Laws of Performance

 Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan’s book “The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life” is a thought-provoking management book.

Writing an original book is a really tough job today. It looked like every possible word had been said in the field of management. In the first chapter, the authors try to persuade readers that this book is a really imaginative, new book.
Both of the authors are experienced management consultants; through their management consulting projects they found out what really works in the business world. There are three laws of performance: 1.How people perform correlates to how situations occur to them; 2. How a situation occurs arises in language; and 3. Future-based language transforms how situations occur to people.
What do the authors mean by “How people perform correlates to how situations occur to them?” The authors choose the word “occur” because it is more than a viewpoint; people develop a point of view based on a collective past. Our perceptions about a situation determine our behavior. If one family earns $100,000 a year, when they earn $200,000 they will feel rich, and they will probably spent more. On the other hand, if one family earns $400,000 a year, when they earn $200,000 a year, they will probably save money. Most of the time, the preceding conditions shape our mind set. If we have negative emotions toward one group of people, it will be very difficult to accept one of them as a friend. So, what we have to do is to change that perception.
According to the authors, people try to change without changing their viewpoints and perceptions; however, this is a hopeless effort. There are too many efforts to change in our lives — some in personal life, and some in corporate life. One person tries to lose weight by trying to reduce the amount he eats or by expending more energy. However, most of these efforts are fruitless because the person’s efforts are not voluntary; the person too much painful pressure on himself. Then a moment comes when he wants to stop the pain and continue to live/behave as he did in the past. The only way to change behavior is to change a perception in the mind and the heart. It is no different in the field of corporate change. Most of the time top company management wants a change and forces employees to embrace the change. If the employees don’t believe in the change, they will resist.
The second law is about the language we use: How the world occurs to us is a direct function of the language we use and how we view the world around us. If someone is introduced to you as a friendly person, you listen to him with great attention; if someone is introduced to you as an offensive person, you try to protect yourself from him. Thus, how we think and act is based on linguistic description — we don’t know that person is friendly or offensive. So if we can change our words, we can change our behavior.
The third rule is about focusing on the future. If the people’s thinking is locked into the past, they cannot move into the future. We can think and analyze the past, but more important we have to think about how we will create the future. The things to build our future are very different from the past because conditions and people change.
Are the authors’ ideas original? The story of perception was first explained in Peter Senge’s book “The Fifth Discipline.” The importance of language was first conceptualized by Chris Arygris with “Right&Left Column Thinking.” Different authors have written about the future of focused thinking, but Philip Zimbardo’s book “The Time Paradox” mainly focuses on this subject. However, the ideas are not totally original in this book. “The Three Laws of Performance” is a good compilation of cases and clarifies the importance of changing perception in any performance improvement attempt. 
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