The Pursuit of Excellence…still Pursuing!


There is something about my frequent drive to Seattle that’s been a productive crop of blog-fodder (see What Greatness Demands). While pulling off for a pit stop at a state rest area undergoing remodeling on a recent visit North this last month, I flew by the sign directing traffic to which ramp to take. Pretty routine, right? No so. The sign, at 60 miles an hour, was virtually impossible to read such that I pulled onto the shoulder and walked back to decipher it. Upon closer examination I busted out laughing. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I shouted to the turkey vulture circling above the median strip as I walked back to the car. “This is the best my tax dollars can pay for?” As I drove crossed the median into the parking lot I mused on the thought of the DOT worker fashioning the sign out of the black electrical tape. Were they really proud of their work? Did they walk away feeling like they put their best foot forward, or was it the typical get’r done effort, quality be damned?

I must admit that until the sign triggered the question, I had not consciously thought about it much from the customers perspective. How do our clients see our work? How does their perspective align with ours? Are we driven primarily by the deadline or does quality rule, even in the face of reprioritizing our schedule or tougher yet, renegotiating delivery to get it right.

Being the process guy that I am, it begs for some clear steps to consciously account for excellence in our work:

  1. Don’t compromise excellence in the name of price. If you must take the work at lower compensation, do so but with the expectation that it will be delivered with excellence regardless.
  2. Be clear at the outset of what the mark of excellence looks like, so that when you see it, there is a clear indicator that it has been achieved.
  3. Be realistic about the time frame required. Excellence often requires effort beyond just checking the boxes.
  4. Right before delivery, ask “Is it complete? Have I done all that I need to do such that this work stands out as a hallmark of what I am known for?”
  5. Lastly, ask the customer. Continually calibrating your definition of excellence with theirs will ensure the definition of excellence is a shared perception.

I daresay we all have room to challenge ourselves in the quality of work that we deliver. In whatever way, shape or form that we can find it, the advocate for excellence in each of us that drives the quality of our work is always rewarded. A friend of mine once asked me what was the one single thing that I do that is most effective in marketing my consulting. I found myself blurting out before I had really thought about it. “Doing really great work,” I replied.

Excellence pays.