BY Glen Edward Quiring
Excellence is not an aspiration. It is the next five minutes. - Peters #organizationalhealth #excellence #vitality
Don't wait for excellence.
Business and Organizations alike can often feel the press of needing to raise the bar as they provide goods as services. It always feels urgent. Soon after a long winded discussion, the urgency abates and everything is "back to normal".
I am convinced this is because excellence quickly becomes abstract. The conversation inevitably moves to "if we would only do THIS thing, or THAT thing. . . ".
I can't account for why this happens but it does. The only solution for such behavior I believe is found in Peter's quote above. Excellence needs to move from a topic of discussion to the way we operate day in and day out. Excellence isn't an idea. It is a verb the impacts our strategies AND our operations.
Try this. Next time your staff begins to talk about how things "should" be done in the future stop the conversation and rearrange your meeting agenda so excellence can have it's way in the current meeting. This essentially means giving up long winded dialogues about "what we should do" in favor of what we will implement right now in the moment followed by a promise (at least an action item for the next meeting ) to measure results and followup on its impact.
Excellence can have an impact on your staff. Just don't wait for it. Just do it.
The meeting had adjourned. Abruptly. The children and staff returned to their work stations with a uneasy feeling in their gut. The hard questions were left sitting on the table -- a sustainable future seemed out of reach. The staff longed for a vision that would inspire them, encourage them, empower them to work together. They couldn't say this, but they longed for the synergy that Mom and Pop once brought to the store.
Paul was the oldest. He returned to his office. He sat behind his over-sized maple desk. On the wall behind his desk hung his MBA and certifications from the Management association. On the desk sat piles of papers and books neatly stacked. In the middle of the desk lie a to-do list with items struck through in proper order.
He was anxious. Over the years, running the store was like the change in seasons; one always knew what was coming next: orders for goods and services occurred with regularity, deliveries happened without fail, staff did their job without supervision. It was a well oiled machine.
Or at least it used to be.
The Store faced new challenges. It's brand was tarnished. Sales were slumping and the staff were anxious. Uncertainly hung in the air like the thick winter fog. That staff meeting left Paul's mind racing, his heart pumping, and his face flushed. He sat alone in the quiet of his office and let out a big sigh. Staring into empty space he murmured to himself, "When did this get so complicated?"
"The product sells itself," said the youngest in the family. "If only that were true", mused Paul. When the Store was the only store in town selling product, perhaps that was true. Today, however, stores have popped up all over town. Oh sure, the Mom and Pop store still had the "true product" that was the signature of the store. But other stores sold variations on their products and each had achieved some success doing so.
The more Paul thought about their dilemma, the more difficult it felt. Reputation, sales, competition: these were only the touchstones of what he feared might be the real challenge facing the Store.
The Store, Chapter Two
The weekly meeting
The Schroeder children inherited the quaint little store in the quaint little town.
As was the routine when Mom and Pop were alive, the store staff gathered weekly to discuss operational issues. These meetings were mostly routine.
As the children gathered on this Tuesday morning a new hire of the store -- not related to the family -- spoke out with uncharacteristic authenticity. "Excuse me for saying so, but I was getting my hair cut last week. As I chatted with the folks there in the salon, it seemed that our store has an unfortunate image problem. People in the salon seemed to think that our product was expensive. But they also said that our store was snobby and that it exists only for upper class clients.
The second oldest of the children chimed in, "Yeah, its true, we have a bit of an unsavory reputation in the community. But really, what does it matter? Our product is the best around. We make our product just like Mom and Pop made it. It is as good now, as it was then. It sells itself, doesn't it?"
The new hire chimed in again. "Perhaps many locals don't really know us. Why don't we push some info out into the community? You know, do a public relations campaign. Maybe in the process we could uncover what are the needs of our neighbors?" This seemed to set off a round of murmuring while some around the table nodded in agreement.
The eldest spoke up now, "the best public relations method is to build meaningful relationships," he said energetically. Sure, we need to focus. Yes, we need to keep up the integrity and quality of our product. But its all about relationships."
The room went awkwardly quiet.
Just then, Mom and Pop's youngest joined the conversation. "I don't quite get that. I mean, we are all nice people around this table. Right? Each of us has a cadre of relationships that we nurture. If good public relations occur through personal relationships, why are we not loved in the community? If all we need to do is to keep doing what we doing (in the name of good relationships) how will we ever turn our current reputation on its head?"
He turned to the second eldest. "Furthermore and with all due respect" he continued, "products don't actually sell themselves. If this were the case, our product would be flying off the shelf. But that is not our current state of affairs is it? We started this conversation about our reputation but perhaps this topic dovetails with another pressing issue; namely, the current stagnation in sales. Our sales have really waned over the last couple of years."
"Well" said the eldest, "I see that our time is up. Let's review the items we need to order for next week and be dismissed."
And so, the weekly meeting ended precisely on time. Just as it did when Mom and Pop were running the store.
The Store, Chapter One.
Once upon a time there lived a quaint little family in a quaint little town.
The Schroeders immigrated across the Atlantic. Once they arrived in the new world, Pop worked in the fields. He drove tractors, dug furrows, and loaded bales of hay onto delivery trucks. Mom Schroeder worked as hard as her husband. Dusting was a never ending chore. Despite Mom's best efforts, the powdery valley dust made it's way on every household surface just as it made it way into their clothes. After a daily routine of dusting and washing, Mom took to cooking and spent hours upon hours prepping: canning fruit, baking bread, and preparing meals.
The Schroeders worked hard and saved every penny. After a decade, they had saved enough to open a small store. They sold baked goods, homemade sausage, fruits and vegetables - some grown some purchased from local farms.
After many years, the store had become a community icon. It's imposing edifice could be seen from any direction. Patrons would often stop by just to visit. The owners would offer a patrons coffee at times fresh homemade roles. Stopping by to Mom and Pop had become part of the routine in this quaint little town. In fact, the Mom and Pop Shop had become an important social center.
Beside being popular for their hospitality, the store stocked food that sold very well: cheese, sausages, bread and rolls. Mom and Pop managed to earn a good living and put a considerable sum of money away for retirement with enough left over to leave a handsome inheritance for the children.
Mom & Pop died. The entire community came to pay their respects. Their memorial services were lovely and even elaborate at times. Clearly, Mom and Pop were loved as much as the product and services they provided to this quaint little town.
Ownership of the store passed to the children. The children, like the long time patrons, still loved the products that Mom and Pop sold. But something was changing. Despite their historic popularity, product sales began to stall. After many years of decline, the children had a gut feeling that diminishing sales did not bode well for the future of the store.
www.getvitality.org by Glen Edward Quiring is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.getvitality.org.