How many of us really expect perfection? Who really goes after that 100% score? The vast majority of students would be thrilled with an “A” grade, which could be as low as 92-94%. It would not be far-fetched to assume that those students coming into the business world would feel the same way about their level of success there. And moving up the ladder into leadership or ownership positions it would be hard to visualize their thinking changing all that much. So, employee or customer satisfaction in the 90% range would be good enough.
If that thought process permeates an organization, think about what could happen. A significant percentage of orders do not get filled on time or satisfactorily. Salespeople achieve 90% of their goals, not 100%- and it is okay. As a mindset, accepting less than perfection can ultimately devastate a business.
Small deviations cause big problems. An airplane just 1 degree off course gets 92 feet off its heading for every mile that it travels. The rule of “the one in sixty” says that each degree of variance in heading will result in being one mile off for each 60 miles out.This may not seem like much, but projected over time and distance, it can be quite a lot. Now, think about that with regard to business. If a business is “off heading” 1-2% per year for 5 years without anyone paying attention, where does it end up? How many employee hours get wasted? How many customers are lost? How much productivity?
It is one thing being realistic and knowing that perfection is most unlikely, because we are all human and make mistakes; and not all transactions work out well; and not all people get along well every time. It is another to set the bar too low, giving no incentive to try and achieve perfection. And it is even worse to set low standards and not hold folks accountable to them.
Think about each degree of relaxation of standards as a deviation from the chosen course. Think about how far off course a business can go over just a few years.
The point of all of this is that little things do matter. Letting folks off the hook can become a habit that seems harmless or kind or the sign of a merciful, understanding boss. But it can also mean the slow disintegration of standards. Leaders must temper mercy with accountability.
Businesses do not have a “use by” date. They should be built for sustainability. That makes leaders the pilot on a craft setting a long distance course. “One degree off” can be a huge distance over the long haul. Staying on course is critical. Keeping everyone on board on course as well involves micro-adjustments on a continuous basis. There can be no autopilot.
Every leader needs a set of metrics and mileposts. Course can be checked on a daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly basis. The course of the company and each employee and component, each function and division and each element of strategy should be be checked and gauged on a regular basis. There is no excuse for waiting until the end of the year to find out how far off goals a company has gone. Check, fix, move ahead, check fix, move ahead. This sort of thought process should become habitual and should produce strong results.