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Sunday, 20 October 2013

Is “Less” Acceptable? Remember That Good Enough is Not Good Enough!

Through the good offices of my good and wise friend Harold Woodward this week, I was sent another excellent quote: 

·       “If you settle for less, then less is what you get” 

How very true is that and how often do we fall into the trap of accepting less in so many circumstances. 

As an example, when the waiter comes to your table and says “Is everything alright?” we frequently say, “Yes, yes, fine thank you” when in fact the vegetables are cold and the steak is overcooked when we ordered medium rare. 

Or perhaps when we recruit someone for the wrong reasons and accept that they are not exactly what we are seeking but they will fill the bill for the time being and they turn out to be useless.

Psychologists call it cognitive dissonance and that broadly means that when we make an injudicious decision and it turns out to be a bad one, we will defend it to the death. 

Acceptance of mediocrity means that you will build a mediocre organisation almost without noticing it and it can become a part of the culture of the business. 

The trouble with that approach is that slowly and inexorably the business will go into decline simply because there is that acceptance of less. 

One of the mantras which we espouse in Vistage is that propounded by Jim Collins in his great book “Good to Great” in which he says that we need to get the right people on the bus. 

I have known members of my group who categorically recruited people whom they judged as being better than they were.  That demands a high measure of humility and an acceptance that even though we are in a position of authority we really don’t know everything. 

It’s a tough call but it almost always has the right effect. 

The big point is that as a leader we have come up through a specific route in business such as finance, sales, marketing, technical and so on and accordingly we need people around us to supply the functional expertise which we lack. 

Years ago one of the fashionable fads in business was that of Total Quality, the implication being that while quality demands were usually attached to the product or service, in fact it should pervade the whole ethos of the business. 

While the concept has quietly gone into limbo with so many others like Management by Walking About and Management by Objectives among many others, I believe that it should now be visibly resuscitated under the new banner of the Pursuit of Excellence. 

There is little doubt that the economy is at last in a growth phase (there is an election in eighteen months time remember, says the cynic) and the demands of the market will mean that every successful business will need to be more competent, more aligned to market needs and much more inclined to realise that the only way to that success is through overall excellence. 

No more than three rings before the phone is answered, rapid and accurate invoicing, helpful initial response on the telephone and the elimination of negativity. 

Forget the “less is more” – demand only excellence through the organisation and make that the culture of the business.  You won’ regret the effort.
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