Thursday, November 8, 2012

Continuous Improvement

As an athlete, I track my workouts in a binder.  I know what I have done:  the miles, the times, the weights, the repetitions.  I can see my progress on the page and in my body.  Data does not lie.  It inspires me to get another repetition; to lift a couple more pounds; or to shave off a few seconds from my time.

My work is like that, too.  But my work does not have a quantitative component.  I do not improve by doing "one more".  My work is qualitative.  I focus on doing things better.  Just like my clients.

I like the concept of kaizen or continuous improvement.  Once you reach a certain level of success in your career, there are not a lot of "Ah Ha!" moments left.  The real change comes gradually, by being honest with yourself and consistently working to be a little better every time.  Continuous improvement follows four steps.  This process is logical, so you may even be doing it without knowing it.
  1. Plan
  2. Act
  3. Check
  4. Adjust
Set your goal, work to achieve it, monitor progress, and tweak the process. 

As executives, smarts and expertise are assumed.  They are the ante that got you into the executive suite.  Once there, no good executive can rest on their laurels.  You have to always be improving. 

The world record time for running a marathon is 2:03:38.  It was set in 2011.  Experts predict the two-hour barrier will be broken eventually.  Even though a marathon is 26.2 miles, improvements in time mean shaving just seconds off.  Improvements take place on the margin, in small increments.  Yet, the change adds up.  It is only a 3% time decrease to break the barrier, but it represents daily training improvements.  The rewards for that cumulative improvement will be fame, glory, personal satisfaction and money.   

I do it as an athlete.  I do it in as a coach. 

Always be improving. 

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