Saturday, 17 October 2015

In Search of Excellence – Making it REAL!

Tom Peter’s 1982 landmark book “In Search of Excellence” is still relevant in today’s connected business world where your prospects and customers know more about you both as a company and the individuals that comprise your organisation before they buy, and finding excellence and maintaining it day-in day-out is the constant challenge. The bar today is set very high, customers are intelligent and well informed and social media commentary sets expectations (wrongly or rightly) and can make and break a reputation. Consistency is the watchword and if you become complacent then everything you have worked hard for and achieved can be lost overnight.

In any service orientated business individual people excellence and performance is key, and this reflects on the company and its brand. (Everything you see or touch is connected). For me excellence starts with living and breathing a company’s values as this is the very ethos and foundation on which you build your brand. As 
a leader this is the extension of your vision and how you wish for it to be delivered.

However to make it stick you have to make it REAL! – this means you need to translate what’s in your head into something your own people mentally buy into and can be truly passionate about. More importantly you need “collective” excellence in everybody and not in just a few individuals to be successful.

A successful service company today provides the platform underpinned by its values and culture as the launch pad for individuals to reach their own levels of excellence and through extension your organisation achieves "collective excellence". There are a number of elements that you have to ensure that are in place for this to be achieved by having (but by no means limited to):
  • A “Winning mind-set” – when you fail, fail fast, learn and move on quickly – this sets the rhythm, pace and heartbeat of the company
  • A “Value Set” that everyone can relate to – this is the ethos and tone of your organisation; and at the core of this is respect for one another
  • A Strategic Vision – Communicate clearly where you are going and more importantly how you are going to get there as well as your expectations of your people
  • A commitment to looking after and developing your people! - the equation is simple: Happy People = Happy Customers
  • An Efficient & Effective Operational Engine – “Delivery and making good on your promises is everything” that’s how individual reputations and a company brand is built and also lost!
  • A “Can do Attitude” (the “JFDI” methodology of project management) – delight and surprise your customers, use a positive customer experience to create customer advocates
For the individual to achieve excellence:
  • You have got to want to do it! – having the right attitude is everything
  • You need to have an insatiable drive and hunger that pushes you on
  • A thirst for acquiring and sharing new knowledge with your peers
  • Positive thinking and a deep personal commitment
  • and most importantly you have to MAKE THINGS HAPPEN and GET THE JOB DONE IN THE RIGHT WAY!
From a leadership perspective you have to drill home the need for constant awareness in that “Without Customers, you don’t have a business” and remember no matter how successful you are “complacency will kill you in a heartbeat”.

Once you have climbed the mountain of excellence (if you can actually get there in the first place) staying there by achieving consistency is the even bigger challenge. To excel as an individual and subsequently as an organisation, you have to be constantly challenged and inspired. So as leaders of men and women, how do you inspire those around you?

In my opinion to be an effective Chief Executive you need to lead from the front. At Certus, I would never ask any of our people to do something that I wasn’t prepared to do myself.  I demonstrate this by still getting my hands dirty in front line delivery as a Project Manager and also undertaking Business Development (including the sometimes thankless but critical task of the background pre-sales effort) albeit in doing so this does stretch my own personal bandwidth. However I am not unique in this as ALL the Certus Executive Team are hands-on and by not having anyone in an artificial corporate ivory tower I believe is a key factor that differentiates us as an organisation from the competition. Our Exec Team are in the field on a daily basis with our people and our customers, ensuring excellence is delivered and maintained.

From a personal perspective there is nothing I enjoy more than leading a project and making what some consider the impossible “possible” happen before their eyes. In doing so I love sharing my knowledge and seeing the people around me equally learn and grow so over time they can excel themselves hopefully to higher levels than what I ever achieved as an individual. Also it gives me the opportunity to learn as well, you never know it all and you never stop learning.

As with everything, do I always get it right? – No (far from it), do we as a collective at Certus always get it right? – No, but we constantly are in search of excellence. The constant challenge is just one element in what makes building and running a business fun.

Confucius quotes “the will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach ones full potential…these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence”, however everyone needs help to achieve and subsequently maintain this. What’s the point of acquiring knowledge and learning if you don’t share it and pass it on??? As Kevin Spacy says “If you’re lucky to do well it’s your responsibility to send the elevator back down”. Could not agree more and as for Tom Peters, his writings will still be valid in another 30 years from now!