Dec 13

Are you sure you want to reach excellence?

Many are the parents that dream that one day their kid becomes a sports champion. So, when she is still young, they bring her to the best coach money can buy to start training. If the coach is a responsible person, he will ask this question: “Are you really sure? Do you want a champion, or a daughter?” When excellence is involved, hard choices are needed.
Despite this, this is one of the most used, and abused, words in business today. We find it everywhere and organizations use it with shocking ease.
They declare in their brochures that they want to “reach product and service excellence”, becoming “market leaders, and examples of excellence”. The next step for them is to cal external consultants, that, on their websites, promise companies to make them reach “excellent performance”.
This led to the delusion that we can master fields, sectors and services with a subsequent, enormous waste of resources and much to the disappointment of organizations that see their dreams crash.
Excellence means reaching extremely high results in a field. But this is only the beginning: once you reach the top, you need to stay there. If we compare this to tennis, excellence means becoming one of the top 10 players in the world… and stay there. This is the real definition of excellence. What organizations usually do not get is that excellence is a habit, built after months or even years of practice, it is very difficult to reach and it doesn’t always deliver the results we want.
If our company sells 100 products, we will not reach excellence in all of them. It is as though an athlete wanted to become world champion in five different sports.

When an organization asks to a consultant to reach “excellence” is a sector or a service, the responsible consultant, therefore, will need to ask this question: “Are you sure?” because being excellent means shocking customers because you are unbelievably good. Otherwise we are good, or very good.
Do we want to be excellent in logistics? This means that we need to redesign our facilities sto that movement of goods is extremely lean, quick, intuitive, error-free, and efficient. It also mean that people are extremely prepared in all phase and have a bias for action to search for continuous improvements. You need to be prepared to create a revolution if you want excellence. You have 130 people in logistics? Are you ready to move or fire helf of them? Because we can force someone that is not passionate for his job to be a good worker and, sometimes, rarely an extremely good one. But we cannot force someone to become a world champion. So half of the people in your department might not be the right fit for your ambitious goal.
If our level of error and inefficiency in the logistics department is good, probably we should not shoot for excellence. Customers would not appreciate the difference.
So if you are an organization, always ask yourself whether your customers really want excellence you are looking for. Are you really sure that your customers will talk for days to their friends because you delivered their package in two days instead of three?


If, after all this, you still want to reach excellence:
• First of all, ask your customers for what they would really love to be shocked because you are the best in the world delivering unbelievable results. The goal is ambitious, so choose wisely.
• Define key behaviours and attitudes that need to be practiced to reach excellence.
• Generate highly performing, accurate and well-defined habits, changing the culture in that part of the organization.
• Prepare for months, or even years, of practice, supported by the top management and the sharing of best practice all over the organization.


The search for excellence is a cultural change, and we know how difficult they are. Excellence will give you huge advantages, it is very visible, and people rave about it. But it requires big sacrifices, deep changes in mind-sets and constant practice.

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