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Strategic Improvement – The 1% Goal

In the House of Commons, on the day he announced his retirement, the Speaker, John Bercow, commented on the difference between being proud of what has been achieved and satisfied. “Being satisfied” he said “is the fastest route to complacency”

He is right.

In most things, but particularly our work, we should be proud of what we do, but we should not settle for it. We should not be satisfied but hungry to extend success, to increase knowledge, hone skills, and deepen the experience. In short, always to develop further.

The 1% goal.

When we continue to develop ourselves in business we will also continue to deliver better products and services. That way we create a better business. These changes are evolutionary, not revolutionary. They are small increments that aggregate over time.

Of course, sometimes change has to be big, at least when viewed from the point of view of the recipient. Usually, however, the drivers for almost all change are light, and often only self-generated. So it is to ourselves as business leaders we should look. The danger is to be satisfied, as John Bercow alluded to, to think “that’s’ good enough” instead of setting a goal to make it a little better, even just 1% better, each time it is done.

How do we do that? Reflecting on each aspect of our business and our performance in it regularly gives us the opportunity to identify improvements. Implement them to measure them and evaluate them, and make the good ones consistent. That’s the process I call “The 1% goal”:

The value of consistency over intensity.

When we put all our effort into making a change, a big change, quickly we work with intensity and we can achieve great things. There are times when intensity is the right approach. I can only imagine the intensity of effort that the teams at NASA put in to help get the stricken Apollo 13 spacecraft back to earth. Some tasks genuinely are Herculean.

Yet most of our work is not herculean in nature, it is what we do, it draws on our knowledge and experience and uses our skills. Much of it can be done habitually, and I would argue that to improve we need to embed those improvements as habits so that we do them consistently.

We all value consistency because it creates trustability, reliability, and solidity. So being more consistent is guaranteed to unlock sustainable reliable profits, and that comes from having more embedded habits.

To be consistent we need to ensure that we do the right things in the right order and we make that habitual by doing them regularly and with precision. How can that be done? I’m a big fan of checklists, not because I don’t trust my skill or my memory, but because I respect the value of true consistency.

Please don’t be satisfied, be proud of all you have done, and still be hungry for more, seek out the 1% Goal and deliver it consistently.

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