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  • Charlie Haberkorn

Continuous Improvement - Make No Excuses

Growing up I loved to play sports. Regardless the season I was either on a field or a court.

On occasion I would say to my dad that I don’t want to go to practice.  His response I remember like it was yesterday, “there are a million excuses for not going to practice and only one reason you should. That reason it is the right thing to do.”

Excuses, it is hot out, it is cold out, I am tired, nobody is going…….!

Off I would go to practice. Often muttering to myself. As the years went by and I would look back at that advice it was practice that honed my skills, allowed me to learn more about the game, learn more of my coach’s expectations and learn more about the strengths of my teammates. It also helped me to learn how to be a good teammate and not disappoint my coach by showing I was committed. 

As a team member it is important to learn the strengths of your teammates and to understand your strengths and the role you play on the team. As a team member you also learn the coach’s expectations of you individually and collectively of the team.

As a team we won and as a team we lost. We learned from winning and losing. When we won, we celebrated the team victory and at the same time recognized the most valuable player that game. Playing on a team I learned to leave the ego at the door of the locker room. 

Continuous Improvement takes teamwork and practice.  Look at the regularly scheduled working sessions as practice. The ability to hone your skills and learn more about your teammate’s skills. The purpose, to collectively work to attain the desired results of the team, accomplish your imperative, and collectively all teams work to accomplish the desired results of the organization. This is where you leave your ego at the door when entering the working session.

As a team you don’t compete against others on the team, it is not about the individual, it is about the team collectively.  Individually you want to hone your skills and expect others to hone their skills. Look at the team leader as the coach. Understand the leader’s expectations of you as a team member and their expectations of the entire team. By understanding your role and the role of others your team meets expectations, meets accountabilities, meets performance measures and helps to attain the desired results of the organization.

Continuous Improvement is for all aspects of the business. All aspects; methods to grow top line revenue, improve accuracy, speed of key numbers, methods to reduce cost and improve the customer and consumer experience.  Often you hear we do not get any customer or consumer complaints. The question should be; did we get any customer and consumer accolades? Month end closing rather than accepting the status quo of X amount of days to close the books how do you improve the process to get the key performance measures with more speed and accuracy to allow for more fluid decisions? Top line sales revenue, how do you improve the results with existing customers and develop new revenue streams for existing products and or create meaningful new products and channels? Cost reduction in all areas faster, better and lower cost. Total cost of ownership is a key metric. Anyone can buy something cheaper but can you drive more value and less waste by improving processes? These are a few examples. Look at your imperatives, performance metrics and desired results. Are you stretching yourself, your team and your organization to improve all you do? If the answer is yes keep going, if the answer is no: No excuses get started.

No excuses, continuous improvement is much like my dad's advice. There are a million excuses why you don’t want to do it and only one reason why you should.  Excuses, I am too busy, nobody listens, that will never work, we already tried that……! Continuous Improvement leads to improved performance, it is the right thing to do.

There are many principles, methods, approaches and names for Continuous Improvement.  Continuous Improvement takes desire to challenge status quo, takes no excuses, takes leaving your ego behind, and not competing with team members. 

Continuous Improvement sounds easy. Easy, defined as achieved without effort. Easy doesn’t mean simple. Simple, defined as uncomplicated, understood and takes effort to achieve. Continuous Improvement takes hard work, it takes action and effort.

Thinking is good and doing is great. You can think about continuous improvement all you want but until you act you will not see results. Take that first step to continuous improvement by stepping into the “Uncomfort Zone”. 

In retrospect my dad's advice of there is a million excuses not to do something and only one reason to do it because is the right thing to do is a life lesson. Continuous Improvement leads to better results, increased learning, putting yourself by choice in discomfort and expands your capacity to think and act.

Earlier I stated we didn’t focus on one sport early on. We had the opportunity to try many sports. Some we failed at, some we were okay at and others we excelled. We experienced failure and success. In my opinion that ability to experience failure and success and the desire to perform well as a team has served me well. It has opened my mind to opportunities outside my comfort zone, geographically, with different organizations and a willingness to challenge status quo sometimes leading and sometimes following.  Understanding my role and leaving the ego outside. Try new things challenge yourself and others to continually improve

My dad never went to college. He was a Second World War veteran, a machinist, a husband, a father and a grandfather. He told some great stories and, in those stories, you found life lessons. This one of no excuses has stayed with me a lifetime.

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