Most business readers have been exposed to Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great.”    The book stirred plenty of discussion about what makes a company great.

Unfortunately, the underlying assumption from most business owners is that they have a “good” business.  If good to great is an evolutionary process what precedes good?  Do we start businesses and earn the good label by entitlement?

Sears had an industry leading price-line strategy…Good, Better, Best.

Good really wasn’t.  But the label “good” meant it was the lowest priced offering in the product line.  It was an effective price strategy for Sears for many years.  Consumers understood the pricing at both ends of the spectrum.  Sales teams were taught to up-sell by asking customers, “Wouldn’t you rather have the best?”

At this time of year, faculty meetings around the country will most surely confront the issue of grade inflation.  “Honor Rolls” have fattened as grade entitlement has pressured a teacher’s definition of “good to excellent.”  The bell curve has shifted from average to good.  “B” is the new “C.”   And most would agree that grade “A” isn’t really so special.

It seems much is missing from our attempts to quantify performance.

Excellence is fleeting.  Market leaders can define excellence only until a competitor moves the bar higher.  Reigning champions are sucker punched by young upstarts like Jason Fried. (His book “Re-Work” is highly recommended.)

Rapid shifts in market leadership occur in large part by a company’s sell-out to optimal performance.  Companies who seek “optimum” rather than excellence tend to be the companies that ultimately define the height of the bar.  In every industry one company defines optimum performance.  Metrics are established and second movers benchmark performance based on market leaders.

If good to great is our only goal we will almost certainly define greatness by another company’s metrics.

I submit that market leaders seek optimum performance.  Leaders are not satisfied with excellent marks of distinction.  Leaders have that inner-voice screaming, “we can do better.”  Continuous improvement isn’t old school…it’s the mantra of a march toward optimum.

Three thoughts to ponder today…

  1. Good to Great assumes good.  Have we yet achieved good?
  2. How do we measure “good” in our company?  Do we review metrics and seek continuous improvement?
  3. The best consultants available in the marketplace are our customers.  Are we achieving optimal scores in customer satisfaction?

One parting shot…

If your team is comfortable, I suggest your company is not achieving optimum performance.

Comfortable is a cousin of complacent.

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