The confusion between perfection and excellence

July 2, 2009

Always betterWhen hiring people, I have heard many times their claiming to be perfectionists, either as one of their top three qualities or one of their top three “weaknesses”. Actually, it has always sounded to me like everyone wants things to be “perfect” all the time.
On the other hand, I very rarely have heard anyone mentioning the word “excellence”. This is strange, because many of the “perfectionists” are not really looking for perfection, but they simply want to do an excellent job.
So, what is the difference between the two terms? Actually, it is very simple. Since nobody can define what perfection exactly means, perfection cannot be attained, and therefore should not be set as a goal. On the contrary, excellence, because it is a dynamic and relative concept can be translated rather easily into performance objectives that can be quantified.
Perfection is the quest of an abstract absolute, while excellence is the desire to constantly improve. Therefore, the so-called perfectionists can be split into two groups: the bitter idealists and the driven achievers.
Members of the first group are easy to identify, as they are never satisfied and always have to criticize or blame something or someone for the according-to-them unsatisfying performance. What is also remarkable is that they never seem to make mistakes and they are in never the cause for any problem. They tend to have a negative attitude and they never are happy.
Members of the second group are quite different. They, too, are difficult to satisfy, not so much because performance is below expectations, but because they see ways of doing better or of having been able to do better. Their attitude is generally positive and they are always ready to go again to improve things. Their main motivation is to do beat the previous record and certainly to always beat the competitors. They also do not waste their time blaming, justifying or criticizing, and if they realize that they performance is not good, they will feel mortified and they will take action themselves to correct the situation and meet their goals. Their drive and their knowledge that tomorrow is the other day when they will do better keeps them optimistic, happy and stimulating.
So, if you want superior performance, choose your group! Be enthusiastic, shake things, never give and deliver the goods! Do not focus on why things went wrong, bring solutions and fix the problems!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


The only true Mission Statement

May 12, 2009

Nowadays, about every company has a Mission Statement. It has become part of the business culture and it is included in every business plan.
In many offices, you can even see it framed near the reception desk.
And yet, those mission statements, for as sophisticated as they may be, do not matter that much. OK, I already hear some denial, and I probably am just nothing else than an iconoclast.
Just ask your staff to tell you what the official mission statement of your company is, and you very quickly will see my point. Most employees, and that includes senior executives, simply do not know it! The reasons for that are many. The employee joined the company recently, there is a poor communication from the top, there is lack of interest for it, and in most cases: the statement is too long and too complicated to memorize.
Here is another disappointment for those who worked hard at formulating those magic words: your customers do not know your Mission Statement, either. Why? Because they care about their business first. Moreover, they have seen your Mission Statement in many variations at your competitors’ places, too.
Too many mission statements just sound all too familiar. They are all about your company being the first choice supplier of top quality that cherishes the customers to whom they add value, etc, etc.
When companies differentiate themselves in the same way, they just go back to square one: making themselves commodities.
So what is the only true Mission Statement? The answer is “To make money”! It is true, it is simple to remember by your employees, and the way to do it is to do all the right things right.
Simple, isn’t it?

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

Why use revenue to define top companies?

April 4, 2009

(Article of mine published in the Vancouver Board of Trade’s Sounding Board of October 2003)Some of you will likely wonder why I ask this strange question. By recently reviewing such a list, I wondered about the relevance of the revenue criterion. Indeed, this review raised an interesting question: What does top 100 really mean? Are the companies the best? Are they the most profitable, the most sustainable, the most viable? Or are they just the ones cashing in the most revenue? If so, what about the cost side, in particular the cost control aspect, of business we hear so much about when we hear business specialists comment on company performances? Are the high revenue companies also the most cost efficient?
Clearly, investors and money lenders are much more focused on profit than on revenue. And what about working capital and cash flow? It seems we hear about them only when it is too late.
To define the best, it would be quite interesting to present the list based on an indicator such as economic value-added (EVA), which is a combination of profit and working capital. Such an indicator provides a good estimate of how the company uses its resources and how it financially performs. It also reflects how much wealth is created and allows simple comparisons between companies, not so much on how big but on how efficient and viable in the future they will be. Using this indicator as a management tool will also create a totally new approach to business, by aligning goals from all departments and staff, from the CEO down to the workers. Everyone will have the one and same objective: A higher value for the organization, which nicely meets the current trend towards more value-added products versus producing mostly commodities and raw materials. Further, an EVA-like approach would help make communication and employee compensation simpler and more consistent.
Creating more value for companies, together with a positive competitive atmosphere between businesses of all sectors, would stimulate our economy to excellence.


Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.