If you listen closely enough, you can hear it. Stop, breathe, and listen to it. The struggle. The grunts and sighs. The intensity of effort. The gnashing of teeth.
It’s the classic (and critical) business leadership tug of war, and leaders need to be on the winning side, or their business will be banished to the dustbin of mediocrity.
What’s on the opposing sides on this tug of war? Let’s take a look…..
On one side, there’s the formidable and irresistible “Done fast”
Because after all, in any business, time is money. Expediency is paramount to greater productivity. More widgets made, more customers served, more money saved.
It’s a world where “good” is good enough, because high volume, low prices, and low cost of goods sold (or services delivered) are the drivers.
Now let’s look at the other side – “Done right”
Here, it’s all about quality. Impeccable quality. Uncompromising quality. That widget is put through a rigorous process that produces a consistently reliable product that delivers over and over and over again. Or the service is delivered with care and precision, without regard to the time it will take, so that the customer isn’t just satisfied, but willing to enthusiastically recommend it to someone else.
This is a world where good is NOT good enough. The target is GREAT. But, prices (and costs) most probably will need to be higher.
Leaders fight this tug of war constantly. For companies where profit is paramount, it’s easy to be compelled by the expediency argument – “If we sell more at a cheaper cost, we can get away with lesser quality, and make more money”.
But if the target is higher, then the power shifts to the other side. That is, if the business leader is focused on complete customer and employee satisfaction, and believes great profits will be a byproduct of that focus, quality becomes the chief concern.
I faced this tug of war in an industry that is typically drawn to the expediency side – cable TV. There was, and still is, a huge pull towards “done fast“. I won’t soon forget some of the initial discussions I had with fear-filled cable technicians, who had to meet their daily quotas of work for fear of being, in their words, “dinged” by their supervisors.
These technicians were literally leaving jobs unfinished, or badly done, to please their superiors. “Done fast” was winning.
As I became a More Human leader focused on a higher purpose, I came down firmly on the “done right” side, and with the help of a great core team, began the process of changing the employee mindset. By doing so we came up with a mantra that became a rally cry:
We will not sacrifice quality on the altar of expediency
It wasn’t without all that the struggle, the gnashing of teeth, and the grunts and sighs – after all, “done fast” had been winning for many many years before our arrival.
But slowly but surely we ultimately prevailed, and we became a better (and more profitable) company.
A few years back I affectionately remember visiting Hydro Flask, an Oregon maker of insulated water bottles in Bend, OR, who summed up their position on the tug of war with a succinct and effective mantra of their own, very prominently displayed in their meeting room:
Good Enough Sucks
Be More Human, and get on the “done right” side of the classic business tug of war. Your business, your team, and your life, will be the better for it.