Moving from good business results to excellence
What is the difference between getting good business results and achieving business excellence? No doubt, there are many different opinions and definitions. Each organization and situation are unique. But here I am not talking about any specific metrics and definitions. Rather – what would make you and your team feel like you had achieved greatness?
Obviously, you need to achieve the goals in your strategic plan and performance plans. You need to be on solid ground before reaching for that next level of business excellence. In my previous article, I talked about some ideas for getting on track to achieve your goals. If you haven’t already done so, it’s a good time to review and evaluate.
But perhaps you are already well on track to achieving your goals. What now? Do you just stay the course? Or is it time to stretch for something new and exciting?
Naturally, there are many factors to consider in your decision. We certainly don’t want to burn out employees (and ourselves!), or take unnecessary risks. But consider – if the course is too easy and routine, this may lead to complacency. Employees may not be fully engaged. And you could be missing out on opportunities for growth. In short, you are not fully leveraging your resources.
When and why to strive for business excellence
Jim Collins and his team conducted extensive analysis of some great companies, comparing them with their good counterparts in his book “Good to Great”. He opens the first chapter with the sentence “Good is the enemy of great”. In short, most organizations that reach a level of competence tend to stay there. They continue to do what they do well and generate good results, but never make that leap to greatness. He then goes on to analyze the specific actions that contribute to great results.
It is also important to consider how individuals contribute to business excellence. In his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey also talks about the need to “sharpen the saw”. That is, we need to set aside time from the day-to-day tasks for renewal, or we risk become ineffective (like a dull saw blade). With respect to our professional development, this should include focus on developing skills that sharpen and enhance us beyond our current position.
Therefore, it is apparent that to reach new levels, we need to challenge ourselves to get out of our comfort zone – both on the individual and organization wide level. Business excellence goes beyond “stretch goals”, which may focus on exceeding targets on our existing goals. In short, business excellence goes beyond an incremental improvement in results. It requires creating new and significant value to the organization. And value can (and often should!) go beyond financial performance.
But where do you start with implementing business excellence? It may be a good time to get your team together for some brainstorming. But here are a few ideas to get the discussion started:
5 ideas for stimulating business excellence
1. Stimulate research and development
No doubt you are aware that innovation is often a cornerstone of business excellence. But often, we are so caught up in day-to-day operations that we don’t put enough focus on developing new ideas. So maybe it’s time to allocate time and resources to test out some new concepts and products? And if you have a diverse work force, you can leverage diversity for innovation.
2. Engage employees, customers and/or stakeholders
Getting outside perspectives can be very valuable to identify areas for improvement, and/or new opportunities. So perhaps this would be a good time to do some surveys, or set up some focus groups. In addition to gathering valuable ideas and perspectives – your employees, customers and stakeholders will likely feel engaged when you ask for their opinions. Learn some tips on engagement strategies in our previous article.
3. Corporate social responsibility
While this may not increase your financial bottom line, giving back to your community has many intangible benefits. Maybe you could get some input from employees on some potential projects that your organization could take on? Learn more about developing CSR as a business strategy in our previous article.
4. Learn something new
In addition to training that is directly related to your current business, think about “sharpening the saw” by developing skills that will help your organization grow. For example, developing strategic thinking skills can help your managers and employees to be proactive and seek opportunities for business excellence.
5. Get a jump on planning for the new year.
Rather than waiting until January to start strategic planning and/or performance planning (and taking another month or so to finish!!), have your plans ready to start implement immediately in the new year. Now that you have assessed your current state, you can set new and perhaps more challenging goals for the new year. Just be sure that your goals are SMART! Learn some tips in our article on SMART business goals.
Achieving business excellence takes consistent effort
Stretching for business excellence does have it’s challenges, and there may be some setbacks and failures along the way. So you will need to assess your risk tolerance and ensure that you set realistic expectations with employees. Be sure to provide regular feedback to employees, acknowledge accomplishments and support them as they reach higher. And don’t forget to celebrate success!