Success is the sum of repeated, day-to-day improvement

By R. Keith Mobley, Principal SME, Life Cycle Engineering
As appeared in th
e February 2014 Edition of Reflections on Excellence

As a student of human behavior, I am constantly amazed by our culture’s quest for instant gratification. No matter what the topic, sports, business or personal, we are too impatient to wait for our desired future state. We are unwilling to expend the practice time, invest in business improvement or even spend time in our personal life to achieve sustainable success. Instead, we expect to be the superstar, the best-in-class company or have the perfect personal relationship without investing time or effort.

The transformation from a culture steeped in a pragmatic pursuit of success to one of instant gratification has been so gradual that few recognize the change. When entering the university and subsequently the business world, I had no expectation of easy, instantaneous success. Instead, my generation knew that success requires an investment of commitment, effort and time. My personal goal leaving university was to achieve corporate level management by my 40th birthday. The pursuit of that goal was a focused progression of steps, carefully planned, that would, one step at a time, achieve my vision of success. I selected jobs that would provide experience and growth to support the journey to corporate management level. In today’s culture, this seemingly tortoise-paced journey would not be acceptable, but in truth, it is the only sure path to sustainable success.  

One example of this homage to instant gratification is the morphing of lean manufacturing methodologies. The founding philosophy of lean is Kaizen. The term literally means methodical, paced, continuous improvement—repeated, day-to-day improvement forever. However, in too many corporations when one looks at the implementation of lean, Kaizen morphs into a short-term, all-out blitz designed to provide immediate improvement. While there is nothing wrong with using blitz tactics, gains are never sustainable. One can improve anything with enough resources and effort, but without changing the underlying reasons that necessitate the blitz any gains will quickly dissipate and little or no evidence of the blitz will remain.

That is the same problem with instant gratification—its duration is fleeting. Sustainable change is and must be a methodical, one-step-after-another journey that literally has no end. Success, built upon incremental successes, is a constant forward pressure to get better each day. There are no shortcuts or silver bullets. Like the tortoise and the hare, steady and constant forward movement wins the race—not sporadic bursts of speed interspersed with lethargy. Sustainable continuous improvement requires patience, perseverance and a clear vision of the future but it is the only sure path to success. Are you a tortoise or a hare?

MOBLEY'S 33rd LAW:
“Success is the sum of repeated, day-to-day improvement."

Thank you for taking the time to read this month’s letter. Hopefully, it has raised a few thoughts that will help you take the next step in your journey to excellence. I welcome your feedback and am happy to respond to specific questions. You can reach me at kmobley@LCE.com.

Best regards,
R. Keith Mobley
Principal, Life Cycle Engineering, Inc.

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Keith Mobley has earned an international reputation as one of the premier consultants in the fields of plant performance optimization, reliability engineering, predictive maintenance, and effective management. He has more than 35 years of direct experience in corporate management, process design and troubleshooting. For the past 16 years, he has helped hundreds of clients worldwide achieve and sustain world-class performance. Keith can be reached at kmobley@LCE.com.

© 2014 Life Cycle Engineering, Inc.

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