Wednesday, August 14, 2013


What Golf has taught me about Excellence

I've been playing golf on and off for nearly five decades. I stopped playing several years ago because I'm far from the player I wish I were. But this past year I've taken the opportunity, for the first time in many years, to play golf nearly every week. My game has slowly gotten stronger. I've had a number of heady moments during which I've almost played like the player I long to be.

And almost certainly could be, even though I'm 67 years old. Until recently, I never believed that was possible. For most of my adult life, I've accepted the incredibly durable myth that some people are born with special talents and gifts, and that the potential to truly excel in any given pursuit is largely determined by our genetic inheritance.

Anders Ericsson, arguably the world's leading researcher into high performance has been making the case that it's not inherited talent which determines how good we become at something, but rather how hard we're willing to work -- something he calls "deliberate practice." Numerous researchers now agree that 10,000 hours of such practice is the minimum necessary to achieve expertise in any complex domain.

That notion is wonderfully empowering. It suggests we have remarkable capacity to influence our own outcomes. But that's also daunting. One of Ericsson's central findings is that practice is not only the most important ingredient in achieving excellence, but also the most difficult and the least intrinsically enjoyable.

If you want to be really good at something, it's going to involve relentlessly pushing past your comfort zone, as well as frustration, struggle, setbacks and failures. That's true as long as you want to continue to improve, or even maintain a high level of excellence. The reward is that being really good at something you've earned through your own hard work can be immensely satisfying.

So how do you achieve excellence in an organization?

We have found that a structured approach to implementing change and continuous improvement into an organization are the keys to achieving business excellence. The goal of the Business Excellence Program is to improve the customer's loyalty to your organization.

You can't achieve true, life-long loyalty if you are continuously breaking commitments, delivering less than perfect quality, or having mis-communications.  You have to be trustworthy.

Through that improvement process, most organizations find that their net profits go up as well.  You might get so good that you can justify premium pricing over your competitor's offerings.

All of this starts by focusing attention on the strategic issues & bottlenecks in all aspects of the company’s operations - financial, customer, process, and human resources

There are 5 major elements to a Business Excellence Program:  I’ll cover them in detail with my next posting to this Blog.

Don Whitred   P.Eng. CQE CQA
Process Quality Associates Inc.

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