Dean, a good friend and long time colleague told me recently about a series of “2fer” conversations he’s had with his team. Are you using the 2fer principle? If not, you may be missing a crucial tool for building a Great Workplace culture.
A “2fer” is short for “two for the price of one.” A 2fer addresses a current challenge and also builds greater capability for the next step toward the end goal. Dean’s ongoing conversations are a good example. "2fer"s are how high performance leaders keep performance improving year after year.
Dean's company is introducing a major breakthrough technology. The potential is huge. That’s the problem… I mean the challenge. His team sees a big picture, but not always the BIGGEST picture. The potential of this new breakthrough is bigger than most can see and in this case progress will grow in direct proportion to the comprehension of how "BIG" big can be. Dean’s frustration comes when he brings change requests to modify a design feature in a new product…it could be the one “little thing” that turns a good idea into a great one. Someone typically responds with “Oooh, that’s a problem”. Now, Dean is British and his team members are not all native English speakers. They are technical geniuses, however they may not understand - Dean is hearing something else. He hears “that’s not possible”. With each suggestion the words come back “That’s a problem.” His brain hears, “Can’t do it”
Dean role is more than working a technical challenge – it’s also to create a common vision about the end goal and what is at stake. Aiming small is death.
To keep his composure, he asks the team to use a different English word. He asks them to replace the word “problem” with “challenge”. When this happens each technical conversation is now about more than any specific feature, it is also a learning point: while limitations can be a natural occurrence, acceptance of limitations is a choice. When looked at as a challenge rather than a problem (or “impossibility”), each limitation, each roadblock becomes an opportunity to learn something new… to pioneer a new method… and to make the complex more elegant in its simplicity. So the “2fer” is both a better product and better vision. A Grand Bargain, all for the price of one conversation.
Leaders, especially technical leaders, need to master the art of the 2fer. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the conversation about devices and technology – or processes and data – that you lose sight of the big picture. You lose sight of the purpose: doing the right thing – delivering products and services which overcome the challenges experienced by customers, investors and societies. The leader who does not appreciate the art of the 2fer fails to see an unfolding future and as a result makes decisions based on short term pain relief. In other words, the future is sacrificed for the pressure of the day.
When you appreciate the 2fer, you expand the principle beyond the conversation – it becomes the guiding principle of people and organization development. The things we do build capacity for the next step. Each step we take becomes a foundation for the next, or it is just walking in place.
So, that conversation you had a little while ago… just what was the “2fer”?