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Principles of Breakthrough: A Practical Guide for Leaders

These Principles are distilled down based on the best practices of the most effective executives, consultants, and leaders in the world. They are just as applicable to marketing, sales, operations, as they do to human problems.

You will find the definitions here will guide your thinking No matter how complex, immediate, or aggravating the challenge, this proven set of Principles can be applied to solve it.

They are tested in the real world not just by me but by the hundreds of professionals who have created massive breakthroughs in their organizations through it.

Don’t let their simplicity fool you. If they seem like common sense, ask yourself: have I applied this?

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Principles of Breakthrough: A Practical Guide for Leaders

  1. 1. The Principles of Organizational Breakthroughs: A Practical Guide for Leaders Dhawal Tank
  2. 2. January 3, 2020 California, USA Print, share, copy, this guide with your employees and colleagues as you see fit. This work by Dhawal Tank is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, PO Box 1866, Mountain View, CA 94042, USA. Dhawal Tank – 2
  3. 3. Dear Organizational Leader, To get the most out of these Principles, I recommended that you print it out and keep it close to your desk. Having it at hand means you will be able to quickly refer to it as you face unique challenges in your business, non-profit, agency, or any other type of organization you lead. These Principles are distilled down based on the best practices of the most effective executives, consultants, and leaders in the world. They are just as applicable to marketing, sales, operations, as they do to human problems. You will find the definitions here will guide your thinking No matter how complex, immediate, or aggravating the challenge, this proven set of Principles can be applied to solve it. They are tested in the real world not just by me but by the hundreds of professionals who have created massive breakthroughs in their organizations through it. Don’t let their simplicity fool you. If they seem like common sense, ask yourself: have I applied this? You will first go over the Principles in brief, and then you will see a few examples on how you can apply them immediately. To your breakthroughs, Dhawal Tank Dhawal Tank – 3
  4. 4. The Principles 1.Start with a blank slate: Don't assume you know everything about the situation. Approach it as an outsider. 2.Stop blaming: Believing that something is broken because customers, employees, vendors, or market conditions are the way they are is harmful. It also prevents you from seeing a breakthrough solution. People act in their own self interest. 3.Articulate the Situation and the Outcome: It is not enough to say that you have "a problem" with sales. What specifically? And what specifically does a positive outcome look like? 4.Look for Inherent Simplicity: The roots of any challenge will undoubtedly be tied in 1-2 causes. Fix these root causes and you will breakthrough your business challenges. 5.Don't Focus on the Unimportant: Don't solve the unimportant things. This is very tempting, but also useless. 6.Find the Unquestioned Assumption: At the heart of the root cause of most business challenges is an assumption that has gone unchallenged. What is yours? 7.Map Out the New Territory: Avoid that temptation of acting right away. Instead, map out what the business looks like once the new idea or assumption is involved. You will find many ripple effects (positive and unexpected) that you can plan for ahead of time. 8.Execute: Sell yourself the idea first, and then focus on selling the idea to other stakeholders in terms that appeal to their self-interest. Dhawal Tank – 4
  5. 5. Start With A Blank Slate Idea You got to be a leader by working hard and developing a level of expertise about your field. This can be an asset, but it can also prevent you from seeing your blind spots. It also prevents fresh thinking to emerge. I have repeatedly seen an executive who cannot see their blind spots and are stuck in stale thinking. As a consultant, my primary work is often to introduce fresh thinking to that executive and the organization. Sometimes it can be from the same industry, or a different industry altogether. Sometimes it’s a blind spot which the executive is adamantly ignoring (but which everyone else can see from a mile away). Application Look at your work, your company, or your team from the perspective of an outsider. If you cannot make yourself do that, speak with a friend or colleague in another industry and get their opinion. Don’t use this as a medium of venting to others about how challenging or bad things are. Be open to feedback and think fresh. Being stuck in your head with the problem at hand can be paralyzing. A personal inventory to understand your blindspots can also be helpful. Dhawal Tank – 5
  6. 6. Stop Blaming Idea Your employees, suppliers, customers, and other market conditions are indifferent to your needs. While goodwill, trust, and respect go a long way, understand that people act in their own self-interest in the medium-term and long-term. It is sometimes hard to decipher what their self-interest is, and at times, it seems downright self-destructive (especially when it comes to employees). Your job must be to understand what is in the self-interest of each of the stakeholders you interact with. Realize that your self-interest lies in catering to others’ self- interests. This alone can cause a stuck situation to finally unlock. Application Make a list of all the stakeholders that are involved in the current situation you are tackling. Customers, employees, vendors, everyone. Next, try to understand exactly what is most important to them. It is not always money. Third, develop a list of all the assets (hard and soft) that you can offer them in return for what you want. Finally, discuss with them about their interests. Offer what you can, but also see how close to the mark you were. Dhawal Tank – 6
  7. 7. Articulate the Situation and Outcome Idea Do you have a clear idea of the exact problem you are trying to solve/fix/manage? Clearly articulating the exact problem in directly observable language (DOL) will do more to help you find a solution than wildly throwing a bunch of ideas and hoping they stick. E.g. It isn’t enough to say that you have a “problem with sales.” What does this mean? Do you have a problem in keeping salespeople, or is it the revenue generated per employee? Are major customers leaving you or are you not able to find new customers? Therefore, you must clearly articulate the problem. And as best as you can, articulate the outcome you would like if this problem was solved properly. Application Write out (seriously), don’t just think abstractly exactly what you see the problem/situation is in the most concrete terms possible. E.g. Don’t just say “there is a problem with communication.” Write out “there is no response to the emails asking for direct input.” Next, think of answers exactly for the problem as you have described in the most concrete terms possible. Fixing a “communication problem” is hard. But fixing a problem to get people to reply back to their emails is a directly observable. Dhawal Tank – 7
  8. 8. Look for Inherent Simplicity Idea You have to be convinced that there is simplicity at the root of any situation you are facing. Complexity is a more appealing demon to battle. The mind tends to complicate things more than it needs to be. Resist that urge. Pareto’s 80/20 rule applies. 80% of the things you see happen in your organization, team, department, and in the marketplace can be traced to 20% of causes. And in this world, the ratio is more like 95/5, or even 99/1. Find the minority of causes that moves the rest of the tree and you will be significantly closer to solving the issue at hand and creating a real breakthrough. Application As you write out the problem/situation and start thinking through the solution/answer, you will see many branches start to form. Your task is to trace these branches down to their very roots. In almost every situation, the root causes can be traced down to just 1-2 causes. A simple way to understand if you have arrived at a root cause is to ask yourself: does this cause affect other things in my team/organization/marketplace? Root causes should be playing a disproportionate role and causing multiple waves in the situation at hand. The resulting clarity will be free you to see a breakthrough. Dhawal Tank – 8
  9. 9. Don’t Focus on the Unimportant Idea This is a corollary to the idea before. It will be tempting to go down the wrong paths and work on a bunch of unimportant things. You will be tempted to work on the effects themselves as opposed to causes. As a leader, your job is to work on the important problems or opportunities at hand. The mind’s tendency is to focus on immediate short term snap judgements. Resist the urge. By systematic in your thinking and follow your analysis down to their very roots. Application How do you know if you’re working on the unimportant things? First, ask yourself: is this a cause or effect of the situation at hand? Ask yourself: if I change/fix this, will this cause a substantial change in the situation? In other words, will it fix the problem? If the answer is no, or “just slightly” that’s when you know you are working on the wrong problems. Another question you can ask yourself is: “Does this thing I am solving explain any other problems/situations?” A minor problem will likely be isolated. A root cause will explain many other things happening in the organization. Dhawal Tank – 9
  10. 10. Find the Unquestioned Assumption Idea This is another corollary to the idea of looking for inherent simplicity. At its heart, there is usually an assumption that has gone unchallenged. A few decades back, it might have been “we cannot sell over the Internet.” Today, it might be: “millennial employees are too ___.” Or, the best of all, “this is just how we do things around here.” Ignoring this is dangerous. It is the reason why the big and mighty companies often miss something big. It is the reason why 4/10 companies on the Fortune 500 review are gone from that list within 10 years. Application Look at the unquestioned assumptions behind your employee practices, your supplier and vendor relationships, or how you treat your customers. If an outsider comes and says “why do you do it this way?” and your only answer is, “that’s just how we do it” or “company policy”, maybe it’s time to question this assumption. Breakthroughs happen when you challenge these unspoken assumptions. Dhawal Tank – 10
  11. 11. Map Out the New Territory Idea The insights above will help you cut through the clarity and get clear about the problem as well as the most effective solutions. But before you decide the best of these options, think through the downstream implications of that decision. Since your solution tackles the root causes of your team, organization, business or industry itself, you can definitely be assured that whatever you implement will ripple throughout the organization. Application For each solution you and/or your team have devised, study the downstream impact on your finances, your cultural dynamic, your relationships with your customers, vendors, and suppliers, and finally in relation to the marketplace itself. Your previous thinking about stakeholders’ self interest will help you anticipate the impact. Your goal now is to mitigate unwanted consequences and commit to the solution that maximizes the benefits will minimizing the costs. Dhawal Tank – 11
  12. 12. Execute Idea You must sell yourself first. You and your leadership team must commit to a solution and a course of action before you can execute with the aid of your suppliers, vendors, employees, and ultimately your customers to change your position in the marketplace. Execution always start with selling. Do not hesitate to walk people through your thought process and paint a vision for them about what the solution looks like. Involve their self interest most of all. Help them see why it is in their best interest to move along in executing on the desired solution. Application Identify the people who need to be involved in this strategic change. Identify the gaps that need to be filled. Identify a course of action your existing stakeholders need to take, which ones need to be let go and which ones need to be added in order to complete the path to the destination. Dhawal Tank – 12
  13. 13. Implement the Principles in Your Organization While the Principles above are simple, as you start applying them you will realize that they can be uncommonly hard to implement. Sometimes, you need an external voice to dig into your organization, see the unseen parts of your business, and question the assumptions that need to be challenged. This is my work. I provide strategic consulting work to organizational leaders across the US, Canada, and Europe. This includes leading workshops and speaking in any stage of thinking, deciding, inspiring/moving people, and executing on a strategic change. This is how the process typically works: Step 1 Fill out the Contact Form – Describe the issue you are dealing with and what your attempts at solving them so far have included. You can be as brief or as detailed as you want. This call is 100% confidential and can come with a NDA if required and requested. Step 2 Go through Clarity Call - Lasting between 30-75 minutes, we will go through the call and understand the outcomes you are aiming Dhawal Tank – 13
  14. 14. for, apply the principles above, and figure out areas of greater exploration. My goal here is to start creating clarity for you. Step 3 If appropriate, receive a plan of action - We will determine in the call itself if we have the ability to work together. If we do, expect to receive a simple proposal within 24 hours on how you can create the outcome you want. Dhawal Tank – 14
  15. 15. Frequently Asked Questions What are your fees? Unlike many other consultants, I do not charge by the hour so you do not have to make an investment decision every time I am engaged. My fees are value-based and are dependent on the objectives you are trying to reach. This means that if I can solve the problem in 1 day, I will not draw out our work in order to bill you more hours. I believe it is in our best interest to work to solve the problem as quickly and effectively as possible. This also means you aren't making an investment decision every time I engage with you and your organization. I will provide your custom-tailored fee structure in the proposal after a complimentary clarity call which you can book below. Why can’t I do this myself? You can also fix the pipes in your house yourself when the basement is flooded, but it is often more effective to get someone external to help you. An outsider like me gives an unbiased objective view on your company. This is in line with Principle 1, where you approach your challenges with a blank slate. Why work specifically with you? Other consulting firms have layers of people around them. I am a solo-consultant with skin in the game with my clients and my business. Unlike larger companies, my reputation is on the line with my work. This means you can expect great responsiviness, and results-orientation than others who bill by the hour cannot provide. Plus my experience, thought leadership as a solo- consultant, and education makes me equally qualified. Dhawal Tank – 15
  16. 16. Shouldn’t I hire an expert? Sometimes you do. We can determine that in the Clarity call. I do not take on clients whose needs I cannot meet anyways. It isn't good business for me to do that. In other cases, an expert has a narrow view of the world and uses their own heuristics to jump to an answer. This can be useful, but a structured way of thinking and applying the principles above can yield out of the box solutions that experts with deep industry knowledge often miss altogether. How can you be sure these Principles will work for me? These Principles are not derived from fad-of-the-month business bestseller books. These are tried and true principles gleamed out from a century from real business executives across every industry and country on the planet. I've worked alongside thought leaders and executives, and the most effective problem solvers all share these same principles of thinking. They absolutely do work. My business is not in your geography, can we still work? Yes. I travel and work remotely as appropriate for the work at hand. Currently, I serve clients in North America and Europe. Dhawal Tank – 16
  17. 17. Testimonials “I rank Dhawal as one of the best advisors I have ever had. He has an art for finding and acquiring new pockets of customers in a way that produces tangible results. Dhawal is not only intelligent and strategic he has an extremely high degree of emotional intelligence. He undertakes challenges with a calmness and prudence that differentiates him from other advisors I have used. In addition to his strategic and tactical skills, he is quite gifted as seeing where leadership approaches may be interfering with the desired outcomes.” Sharon King, CEO, Starfield “Dhawal is a true professional who approaches his work with enthusiasm and integrity. As a startup, we appreciated his flexibility and ability to do it all – from fresh big-picture ideas and strategy, to brass-tacks project management!” Joe Mahavuthivanij, CEO, Mythic Markets “If you need a smart, driven and easy to work with MBA who can help grow your business, look no further. His work was so impressive that I had to offer him options in my business to make sure he’s with me for the long haul! His ideas work practically for startups, as well as small and medium sized companies. I highly recommend working with him to grow your business.” Lelian Girard, CEO, TUIO Payments “He is one of the most diligent, patient and honest men I have met. It is my sincere pleasure to recommend him to anybody out there looking for RESULTS. I firmly believe that past experience is a strong reflection of what an individual has to offer, and my experience with Dhawal has convinced me that he is an invaluable team player, a dynamic and creative individual. I really look forward to working with you again. Keep up all your good work.” Aditya Gullia, CEO, Grace & Stella Dhawal Tank – 17
  18. 18. About the Author My name is Dhawal Tank (pronounced The-vuhl Tank). I believe that businesses and organizations are the real engine of prosperity, dignity, and innovation in society. I've worked inside of and consulted with dozens of organizations to see where they succeed and what makes them come up short. My consulting practice is based on sound principles gleamed through working alongside or learning from the world's top leaders, executives, and thinkers. As a result, I am one of the 100 Global Leaders of Tomorrow as per the St. Gallen Symposium in Switzerland. I have an MBA from York University (Top 10 in the World as per Forbes, see here) and a Bachelors from the Ivey Business School (Top ranked undergrad program in Canada, see here). I write about Leadership, Technology, and Healthcare with a spattering of personal development and environmental issues. My work was emailed more than 20,000 times and read by close to 1 million people on I’ve also been featured on Huffington Post, and Big Design Lab. I’ve spoken all across North America in front of audiences ranging from 10 to 3,500 in Toronto, Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, Detroit, Calgary, and Chicago. I consult and work with a variety of non-profits as well. Along with my work for BAPS Charities, I work with NY Times Best Selling author Dr. Michael Greger’s organization, and I advise startups in the IoT, med-tech, food, education, and logistics space. I currently live in California, and serve clients across the world. Get in touch with me here for your needs. Dhawal Tank – 18
  19. 19. Clarity Weekly: A Newsletter for Organizational Leaders Your most important work is to Think Decide Inspire Execute. Subscribe to get the best insights that cuts through the clutter to help you do just that. The newsletter offers evergreen insights from highly effective organizations and leaders based on my study and strategy work with businesses. Sign up today for free at