Last week I was meeting with the production supervisors and our CEO. I was complementing them on their performance. On time delivery was up, expedite orders under control and sales are up. Great Job. NOW it’s time to turn up the heat and really focus on improvement. The hard part has just begun. Not text-book, complimenting them and then telling them to do more.
It’s the 80/20 rule. It takes 20% of the effort to get 80% of the results. The problem is so many companies get the 80% and declare victory. “We’re There”, wherever “there” is. They celebrate it as a victory and accomplishment. Remember “Mission Accomplished”? That didn’t end up well for the President. America had achieved 80% of their objective. They declared victory. Problem is the last 20% requires 80% of the effort. I think President Bush learned this lesson. (Don’t start sending hate mail. I’m a fan of W and just finished his book. Everyone makes mistakes)
Great companies get to be great because they know this. When they hit the 80% level they rally the team for the difficult job still remaining. They recognize they have accomplished a benchmark on their journey and then focus on the tough job still remaining. This accomplishment was part of their goals. they expected to achieve this accomplishment as only one of many benchmarks in their plan. Great companies are the ones that plan for the last 20% to set them apart from their competition.
It would be easy to reach this 80% mark and maintain. Sales and profits are acceptable. Market share is okay. To move beyond would require so much effort. What’s wrong with being good? I’ve written about this in a previous Blog. If you aren’t improving, you are declining. Competition targets you and continues to improve until they catch and pass you. You are on the decline. Market share falls. Pricing concessions are used to keep customers, impacting profit margins. Many times the decline turns to free fall, a company clawing at survival.
So my remarks last week were not from a greedy, overly tough manager. It was from someone who deeply cares about their company. It was from someone that will not settle for good enough. It was from someone who cares about the team and wants Ebsco to continuing moving forward instead of backward. I am extremely proud of the entire Ebsco team and our production managers. They have achieved great victories. So when will we know when we get “There”? The answer is “There” doesn’t exist. Continuous improvement means continuous. Not continuous until we reach a certain level. It’s continuous.
So pat yourself on the back for just a minute and then get back to work. Your team deserves it.