Uncommon Clarity, Inc.
Newsletter, May 2007


Welcome to Clear Thoughts from Uncommon Clarity

In This Issue
  • Introductory Thoughts
  • Process Thoughts - Is Operational Excellence the Enemy of Strategic Breakthrough?
  • People Thoughts - Gold-Plating Tendencies
  • Parting Thoughts - Trusting the Future

  • Process Thoughts - Is Operational Excellence the Enemy of Strategic Breakthrough?

    Operational excellence requires focus. We must know our customers and focus on their needs. Resources must be unleashed on the priorities and pried away from wasteful efforts. Processes must be tuned to ensure costs are controlled while simultaneously boasting top quality products and services. But at times, that same focus can be an enemy.

    People Thoughts - Gold-Plating Tendencies
    Gold-plated Woodpile?

    Stacking firewood this weekend, brought out a bit of the craftsmen in me. Stability was somewhat important, of course, finishing was most important, and perfection was not on the list. Nonetheless, I faced ample temptation to build a fabulous wood pile.

    It must be human nature - pride in workmanship, a little aesthetic compulsion, the intrinsic reward of insights, finding the challenge to combat tedium. Who hasn't found themselves doing a job better than necessary? And who hasn't been proud of delivering a better than expected result? Don't we applaud such excellence at every turn?

    Well, yes, until we decide it is eroding profits! Companies everywhere struggle with gold-plating - quality and features beyond the requirements. Whether your employees are polishing lenses, engineering complex systems, writing something, or developing software, most of your employees are naturally inclined to do more than is necessary in some aspect of their job. And there is a fine line between encouraging excellence and discouraging gold-plating.

    I wasn't stacking wood alone. I had the opportunity to compare the height of my section to another any time I chose. A bit of competitiveness and a simple desire to do my fair share, also common elements of human nature, kept my craftsmanship in check.

    The greatest minds in process management extol the virtues of constant visual feedback such as was offered by our side-by-side woodpiles. You can't beat it. People need to know and want to know how well they are doing. Immediate visual feedback is the best and provides an excellent antidote for perfectionism.

    Thus, to minimize gold-plating, find frequent opportunities to:

    • Discuss priorities and the temptations to do more than is necessary
    • Provide feedback, preferably immediate, visual feedback

    Parting Thoughts - Trusting the Future

    "One should never place one's trust in the future. It doesn't deserve it."

    Andre Chamson, novelist

    Do your plans put too much trust in the future? Read:

    If you enjoyed this edition of Clear Thoughts, please forward it to others who may be interested.

    Best regards,

    Ann's Signature

    Ann Latham

    2007 Ann Latham. All rights reserved.

    We encourage sharing Clear Thoughts in whole or in part with attribution, copyright and website address, www.uncommonclarity.com, included.

    Introductory Thoughts
    Ann Latham

    Know any veterinary students? My daughter is a first year and it is brutal! I won't elaborate but we've all heard how tough med school is and they only deal with one species. Does this harsh schedule and overload somehow produce better vets? Don't know, but she most definitely has learned three invaluable skills for anyone:

    • Balance -- personal well-being, the next deadline, long term opportunities
    • Focus & Discipline -- tackle the important, ignore the rest
    • 80/20 -- do what you can and move on
    Maybe we could all use a little brutal boot camp experience to learn these lessons.

    Uncommon Clarity, Inc. helps organizations make people productive, processes reliable, and customers happy through strong strategies and smart systems.

    Please contact us for help in achieving your business objectives.

    - Ann Latham

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