Bill Troy, ASQ’s CEO continues with his series of thoughts about strategy. In his September blog Bill talks about “Charting A Strategy for Quality And Beyond”. Out of his five questions about strategy, taken from his military experience, question number 2 “What is your theory of victory?” kept me thinking for days.
Before there is public victory and celebration, there should be lots of internal small victories and reflection. There is no instant grandiose victory, and this rule applies for individuals, small companies, big corporations, governments etc. So, continuous improvement is the way to answer the question: “How to we get from where we are to where we want to be?”
My company PXS recently introduced Continuous Improvement to a big local bank. One of its middle managers summarized the essence of the program more or less with these words: “Before C.I. the word ‘project’ meant something big, very costly and that would take from 2 to 5 years with no idea if it would have any tangible results, now it means solid results sometimes in less than 6 months”.
With Continuous Improvement even failure becomes a victory. When there are mistakes we learn, we get over the failure and we improve. As they say in IDEO, the popular design firm from Palo Alto California: “fail often to succeed sooner”.
With Continuous Improvement, employees can tell bosses there is a better way. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of small victories add up to the accomplishment of the large strategic goals.
With Continuous Improvement, micro-enterprises learn to listen to their customers, set objectives and deliver a good product or service.
So, no matter if you are big or small, victory means becoming better and better every single day.
A few days ago, one student reminded me of an often-misquoted African tale*:
“Every day in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows that it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better be running”
* The quote is attributed to Abe Gubegna an Ethiopian novelist and playwright, however business books authors, at least one American football coach and even a Middle East prince have used it freely.
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