"If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well."
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
5.1 What is excellence?
Excellence is an attitude that recognizes there is always room for improvement, and that anything worth doing, is worth doing well. To be excellent means to do the best you can do today. And tomorrow, try to do it just a little bit better—the journey never ends. Excellence is not a set goal, but rather an ever moving target of continuous improvement.
5.2 The benefits of being excellent
Continuously improving ourselves and everything we do helps us to:
- Apply the aggregation of marginal gains (link). This concept refers to the one percent margin for improvement in everything you do. The idea is that if you improve every area related to your work by just one percent, then those small gains will add up to remarkable improvement. Albert Einstein once said: “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it ... he who doesn't ... pays it.” We not only want to make sure that we understand this concept, but more importantly, we want to put this to practice by continuously improving what we do.
5.3 Tips on being excellent
- Make a commitment only if you’re prepared to do it wholeheartedly. If we cannot commit to continuously improve something until it’s excellent, we should not commit to doing it at all.
- Have a mindset of continuous improvement. Everyday we should be asking ourselves “how can we become a bit better at X?”
- Be stretched in what we do well. As we push to do things better, we will need to break through plateaus by growing in our capacities—both individually and as a team.
- First complete the minimum requirements of any task to the best of your abilities. While we carry this sense of excellence in our day to day work, our starting point should always be to first complete the minimum requirements of any task to the best of our abilities.
- Iterate on the tasks to improve them over time. This will lead to an excellent result. We aim to do this on a weekly basis by continuously seeking out areas that we should innovate (e.g. through our "Improvement Fridays" where we pick something to improve).
- Excellence ≠ perfection It is important to recognize that excellence and perfection are not the same. We can't be perfect, but we can be excellent. Excellence is to have an attitude of continuous improvement, perfection is:
- Striving for an unachievable goal
- A snapshot in time