173: Clarity First ― Improve Performance by Eliminating Ambiguity | with Karen Martin



Ambiguity — in the form of uncertainty or conflicting priorities — has become the default state for organizations of all types. It lurks in the background when leaders can’t explain what success looks like, or what aspects of performance matter most for achieving it. It saps energy from talented team members operating in the dark about how their work contributes to the organization’s goals.

In this episode, Jesse talks to Karen Martin about how to eliminate the ambiguity in your organization by starting with clarity.

Drawing on her work with hundreds of organizations, Karen identifies and offers practical advice to perfect the “Six P’s” of organizational clarity:

  • Purpose: Understand why the organization exists.
  • Priorities: Define what matters now.
  • Process: Design and manage how the work gets done — with excellence and precision.
  • Performance: Know how the organization is doing on all fronts.
  • Problem solving: Surface problems and use a disciplined method for solving them.
  • People: Lead with clarity of thought, word, and action.

This conversation includes:

  • Why some organizations don’t have clarity — and even accept ambiguity as an unavoidable fact of life,
  • The difference between ambiguity and uncertainty,
  • Why having clarity doesn’t mean you can’t have flexibility too,
  • The pitfalls of not setting a clear foundation and relying on ambiguous goals,
  • A quick and easy method for assessing your team’s clarity,
  • Tips for achieving better clarity for your team, and
  • The CLEAR approach to disciplined problem-solving.

Karen Martin is an author, speaker, and president of the global consulting firm The Karen Martin Group, Inc. She is a leading authority on lean management and performance improvement for businesses, government agencies, and the not-for-profit sector. Her newest book is CLARITY FIRST: How Smart Leaders and Organizations Achieve Outstanding Performance. Her previous books include The Outstanding Organization and Value Stream Mapping, both Shingo Research Award winners. Karen and her team have worked with clients such as AT&T, Chevron, Epson, GlaxoSmithKline, International Monetary Fund, Lenovo, Mayo Clinic, and many more.

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