Doing your best is not good enough.You have to know what to do. Then do your best. – W. E. Deming
We live in a world of soundbites and quick responses.
In case you haven’t noticed there is currently an election campaign going on.
One of the parties has come out with a pledge to offer free broadband for all.
When I first heard this I wasn’t sure what opinion I ought to hold.
My first reaction was that it sounded strange, weird – what sort of thing is that to worry about?
The response of almost everyone else seemed the same.
The leader of the other party called it “a crazed communist scheme”.
At which point I started doubting myself – because that particular chap is not known for his grasp of the truth – and I have personally heard him say something on the lines of we’re going to give everyone gigabit broadband which “I understand is a good thing.”
I am not convinced that he would know the difference between a broadband connection and a can of baked beans.
And, after seeing a couple more tweets I’m starting to think the whole proposition is actually quite a sane one – everyone should have access to broadband – not just people like us who can pay for it.
Now, the purpose of this post isn’t really about the politics of this one issue but it is about what it means to improve something – your business, public policy or your personal life.
And the one thing that’s worth understanding is that it’s not a quick fix – none of these can be simply improved by having the right goals, working harder, buying more stuff or throwing money at the issue.
So, where should you start?
W. Edwards Deming, writing in Out of the crisis, describes how the chain reaction above “became engraved in Japan as a way of life” and how every meeting with top management had this in front of them.
If you have one aim for yourself, or for your business, aim to improve quality.
And that’s quality without caveats – quality at any cost.
Only quality matters, nothing else is worth tracking or studying or having an opinion about.
Okay, maybe that’s too extreme.
The chain reaction describes what happens when you don’t give the customer defective products – you get to keep making a living.
And, weirdly, when you improve quality – when you make fewer mistakes, get things right more often – the customer stops paying for all those mistakes and gets more value.
Maybe you can lower prices and be more competitive – make them even happier.
It’s a strange way of thinking to many – what we think we should do is raise prices for the same stuff all the time.
But what if you could provide better stuff AND reduce prices?
Would you, as a consumer, like that?
Or does that sound like another crazy communist idea?
This post doesn’t really have the full solution to transforming your business.
This blog has parts of it, however, in different places.
But really it’s not that hard – because while the detail depends on what you do and the situation you’re in – you know that transformation is going to take time.
And you now also know where to start.
Start by improving quality.