What Standards Do You Use?

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“Good is the enemy of excellent. Jim Collins made that point many years ago. If you accept “lower” standards, you’re not encourage to do better. Yesterday in one of my Vistage meetings, a member commented to the person whose issue we were processing – “Perfection is the enemy of good”. If you demand perfection, you’ll never even get to good. He got the point and resolved to adopt more realistic standards.

In Practically Radical, William Taylor points out how successful companies choose appropriate standards. Here are two examples:

  • In building Lexus into a premium brand, management early on made the decision that it shouldn’t compare itself to other car brands; rather (as David Nordstrom, VP Marketing says), it wants to be compared to other luxury brands. They study the experience you get at Tiffany or the four Seasons and set that as the standard. Similarly, in planning how the dealers’ offices should look, the standard for the repair shop (as noted by the VP of Customer Service) isn’t the relatively dirty ones of most car companies; they want the experience to be enlightening experience “ like going to a maternity ward and watching the babies behind glass.”
  • When VirginiaMasonMedicalCenter needed to transform itself due to serious financial problems, the new CEO searched for new ideas and found the standard for efficiency, performance and continuous improvement at – Toyota!  The courageous leader took top executives to visit and see how it organizes work, tracks quality and solves problems. While everyone was outraged by the excursion, the results are similarly incredible; it eliminated millions of dollars of needless inventory, cut the time to deliver lab results by 85%, and reduced staff walking by sixty miles per day! Nurses, who before spent 35% of their time at patients’ bedside, now were spending 90%.

One of the advantages of Vistage’s non-competitive peer group structure, is that it enables each member to identify performance standards used in other industries, and facilitates members’ ability to share lessons with one another.

When you’re choosing the standards by which to evaluate success, are you using the benchmarks most frequently used by the industry’s companies that you want to leave behind in the dust? Or are you seeking “best of class”, whether in your industry or not to enable you improve performance? What are your experiences using standards used by companies outside your industry?

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