If You’re As Good as You’re Going to Get You Can’t Work Here: Case Study of Deschutes Brewery – Part 1

Would you have the courage to post this sign on your desk? If not, what’s holding you back?

When I ask CEOs and Sales Vice Presidents this question, I hear these justifications:

  • “There’s hardly sufficient time to get our real work done. Taking our sales reps off the streets to a classroom for training is a luxury we can’t afford. And our senior management team should already be quite proficient in their leadership skills.”
  • “If we set the bar that high, at least one-third of our team would be thinking, ‘This isn’t what I signed up for.’”

Sound familiar? Business leaders accept these pervasive dilemmas and operate with the precarious hope of freeing up time for improving capabilities.

Deschutes Brewery’s sales organization doesn’t rely on hope. Instead they’ve solved both of these pervasive dilemmas in pursuit of a game-changer advantage.

In this two-part blog, I share highlights from 3-year case study describing my work with Deschutes, one of my top clients. As game-changers in the beer industry, they don’t look to other businesses for best practices to copy. Instead, I’ve taught the sales organization to adapt talent development methods from sports teams and military special operations—two fields renowned for elite talent development.

Get ready to learn about an innovative work process and performance coaching approach to make talent development your game-changer advantage. You might actually decide to post a sign on your desk declaring continuous improvement to be a job requirement.


Most companies operate in with the implicit marching order “Work is an uptempo race to get daily tasks done efficiently.” So training and development is an illusion. Training and hope is reality. Here’s what hope looks like:

The Cycle of Training & Hope:
Efficiency Practices That Cripple ROI

In sharp contrast, Deschutes sales team has the courage to execute the challenging core value “Do our best and next time do it better.” And next time isn’t next year. It might be the next day. Or even the next sales call.

Like most companies, Deschutes managers lacked any experience in inventing work process innovations, so I was hired to direct their efforts. My Practice While Real Work Gets Done Process, adapts best principles from high performance fields like sports and military special operations. This work process is driven by a contrarian mindset, “All there is at work is time to get better.” It delivers unprecedented productivity—Deschutes team builds capabilities in the midst of getting daily tasks done, such as:

  • When a sales team member engages in blaming or victim language, a colleague will toss an NFL coach’s red challenge flag to call for a timeout to rephrase the remark using the language of accountability.
  • Every sales call gets debriefed following the renowned Navy SEALS debriefing protocol.
  • Managers keep scorecards to stay mindful of mastering new habits. To curtail multi-tasking, several Deschutes managers invite their sales reps to rate them on a 100-point scale on “percentage of time spent fully engaged” during a day of making sales calls.
  • Deschutes managers don’t “hold” people accountable for bad results by telling employees what they did wrong or asking for explanations for unwanted outcomes. Instead, they invite team members to take accountability for their own mindset, the root cause of unwanted outcomes. Comparable to sports teams, the Deschutes coaching model focuses on generating a mindset conducive to optimal performance.
  • Instead of job interviews for selecting new employees, Deschutes uses a series of performance drills. The protocol is comparable to professional sports teams putting top college players through private workouts. Deschutes selection team puts final candidates through several role plays in order to assess three capabilities: a) proficiency of selling skills, b) adaptability to the 5P routines, c) ability to implement feedback. As a result, people who are uncomfortable with the 5Ps work process don’t get hired. In addition, the right individuals get placed in sales rep and market manager jobs.
  • The sales team engages in “deliberate practice” (based on the research of Dr. Anders Ericsson, featured in the book Peak), a method used by experts in many fields including professional athletes. Deliberate practice involves: setting improvement goals, doing uncomfortable practice tasks, and receiving feedback on the skill proficiency and outcome metrics.


  • For 2013-2016, the compounded annual growth rate was 8.7%. According to AC Nielsen research, the total US beer sales showed a 4.07% compounded annual growth rate during this period.
  • Over the last three years, Deschutes attained an average of 98.5% of sales plans.
  • Deschutes on-premise business achieved a 4 year CAGR of 17.25%.
  • In 2015 and 2016, Deschutes was the 8th largest independent craft brewer in the US.
  • After the first year of installing their new work process, Deschutes posted outlier results on 2014 Gallup Employee Engagement scores. Their sales team’s total engagement scores were 88% engaged, 10% unengaged, and 2% disengaged. For comparison, the average Gallup 2012 scores for sales workers showed only 29% were engaged. And for managers and executives, only 36% were engaged.
  • In 2013, 2014, and 2015, Deschutes was voted a top 100 company to work for by Outside Magazine.


In September 2013, Andy Tysler, Deschutes VP of Sales, redefined his role while participating in my presentation for Vistage about my book, Competent is Not an Option:

“In listening to Art, I had an epiphany. I used to think training was something that happened by listening to slide presentations in a classroom. Now I realize there’s nothing but time to do training and coaching while we get work done. And I now hold my role differently. For years, I’ve lead my team to execute the sales plan and make the numbers. Now I have an additional role—developmental leader—to help my managers and sales reps to keep performing better.”

Andy Tysler’s epiphany led to collaboration with me to install the proper mindset and skills for orchestrating the Practice While Real Work Gets Done Process. As a result, Deschutes solved two pervasive dilemmas about performance improvement.

Dilemma #1: An efficiency-driven work process leaves no other choice but settling for random acts of training and development.

Dilemma #2: Performance management ignores mastery of mindset–the root cause of plateaus, slumps, and breakthroughs. (Covered in part II of this blog as well as the full Deschutes case study)

Instead of bench marking their industry’s best practices to address these dilemmas, Deschutes pioneers two game-changer solutions, a game-changer work process + a game-changer coaching method.

A Game-Changer Work Process: Practice While Real Work Gets Done

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  —Aristotle

The Practice While Real Work Gets Done Process alters the habitual cadence of work from “getting tasks done efficiently” to “engaging with customary tasks as learning occasions.” The sales team adheres to a distinct sequence of habits, “job-embedded development routines,” that triggers them to:

a) deliberately practice core skills,
b) distill lessons learned from just-completed tasks, and
c) share lessons learned with colleagues.

Any enduring habit consists of a triggering event, which activates a job-imbedded development routine, which ultimately leads to a small win. So the simple formula is:

Trigger >> routine >> small win

The rhythm to drive the Practice While Real Work Gets Done Process comes from five triggering cues, called the 5Ps. Each of the 5Ps signal team members to drop time-efficient habits and instead engage in job-imbedded-development routines:

Time Efficient Work Process Practice While Real Work Gets Done Process
Presume basic skills are sufficiently mastered P1/Prepare: Daily plans to refine basic skills
Current skill proficiency deemed “good enough” without need to practice to get better P2/Practice: Mindfully design and improvise deliberate practice opportunities before or in the midst of doing tasks.
Tasks get done using a comfortable, familiar, expedient method. Subject to declining proficiency due to stress-inducing distractions. P3/Perform in game-on situations: Generate full capacity—the right energy, focus of concentration, empowering intentions and emotions—in moments of performing a task
Complete an activity and swiftly move to what’s next P4/Perfect the process: Extract valuable lessons learned once a task gets completed
Absorb learning for your own use P5/Publicize fresh learning: Share learning generously with team members, supply channel partners, and customers.

To illustrate, Deschutes deploys the 5Ps during “work withs” where a sales manager provides coaching and on-the-job training to a sales rep. Besides triggering job-imbedded development routines, each P serves as a cue for the next one following in the sequence.

Each day begins with a preparation routine (P1) known as a Grounding for Greatness, where everyone identifies specific skills they intend to improve plus available practice opportunities. Drive time in a car and meal breaks are considered practice fields, ideal for role playing and strategizing for the upcoming sales call (P2). During each sales call, everyone practices designated selling skills in performing before buyers, and also take notes to use in giving feedback afterwards (P3). In perfecting the just-completed sales call (P4), participants use the Navy SEALS debriefing protocol to capture lessons learned and deliver performance-based feedback. At day’s end, the sales team asks “Who else might benefit from what we’ve learned?”(P5), and e-mail their boss, sales colleagues, and beer distributors for Deschutes products.

Since the 5P routines are ingrained as a work process, they also get deployed in joint sales calls conducted by Deschutes personnel and their beer distributor reps. A day in the field with Deschutes is a strikingly superior learning experience for distributors compared to time spent with other beer manufacturers.

For small wins, Deschutes achieves a “trusted partner” status with distributors. Sales team members earn more time with distributors’ sales reps to educate on new product information and marketing campaigns than other beer manufacturers. But the most enduring small win involves the ongoing development of Deschutes sales teams’ talent. Imagine the number of deliberate practice hours generated and lessons learned compiled by a 60 member sales team in a day, a week, a month, or a year.


“You have not taught until they have learned.”  —John Wooden, UCLA basketball coach, winner of 12 NCAA championships

The jig is up. Isn’t it time to put an end to the folly of training and hope? Looking for best practices to adapt? Fortunately, Deschutes has done the field testing for you.

Andy Tysler constantly reminds his team, “We’re inventing the future of the beer industry.” Deschutes doesn’t mimic other beer manufacturers who offer their products as solutions for distributor and retailer problems. Their over-riding competitive advantage comes from inventing solutions to pervasive dilemmas in talent development.

The Practice While Real Work Gets Done Process enables team members to achieve unprecedented productivity—improving their skill proficiency while achieving today’s metrics. The Deschutes team lives the core principle: “All there is at work is time to get better.”

Part 2 of this blog:

In part 2 of this blog, I describe how Deschutes uses mindset disturbance coaching as the basis of their performance improvement approach. Imagine an organization where no one is held accountable. Instead, team members are invited to take accountable. Everyone rushes to take accountability to create a no-spin zone.

Part 2 will be posted during the week of October 18.

If you’re operating with urgency on to solve talent development dilemmas, and don’t want to wait, download the full case study by clicking here.

To order my book on Amazon.com click on the button below or the book cover.

“We’d do more training but we barely have time to get our daily tasks done.” 

This is a universal lament from business leaders in fast-paced organizations… until they apply the unique and time-efficient practices outlined in this book. Competent is Not an Option shows you how to adapt the talent development process used by championship sports teams to produce all-star leaders in your business.

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