Expectations of Excellence

If an organization's teams commonly have schedule problems or quality issues, the problem starts not with the teams, but with leadership.
For teams to achieve excellent results, it starts with leadership setting clear expectations of excellence. The following is an excerpt of the expectations I provide to teams that work for me.

Team, the following are my top five priorities, in order of priority.

  1. Focus on providing great value to our customers. All decisions should be focused on speed to great value to our customers. If I or any one provides guidance that you believe hurts that priority, you must push back. You may not be successful in that pushback, but you will be respected and recognized for your focus on the value to our customers. Part of the key to this is finding the parts of great value we can deliver fastest. What I have referred to before as the Minimum Wow Product, or as others have called it, the minimum valuable product.
  2. Focus on quality from start to finish of the project. Rework and productivity are inversely proportional. The more time spent in rework, the less productive the organization is. A smart focus on quality does not mean “zero rework,” it means understanding the best ways to minimize the cost of rework. That is by catching things early. That is by understanding through prototype or other means what value is for a product. It means solid practices in building the product or service such that it works well. You can test some quality into a product, but data shows over and over again that testing is the least effective and least efficient way to success.
  3. Focus on a smart, fast approach for success of the project. In other words, when exploring approaches and designs, consider many ideas. Look for the best expertise you can bring to the project. Ask for the resources you believe will help achieve the objectives the fastest, with the best value to the customer. Turn over every rock in looking for opportunities for speed. Even if you think I will say “no,” if you believe it will improve the speed to value, ASK FOR IT. Make the case.
  4. Make commitments you can keep or beat. Everything above was about speed. This statement is about creating credibility. After you have figured out the best, fastest approach, make a plan that you can commit to. Make a commitment you can deliver early to. Then lead the team to actually deliver early or at least on time. The teams in my organization will be known as ones that make commitments you can believe in.
  5. Work as a team to learn with data and instincts. My best teams use data to learn and improve. They work as a team to understand what rework reductions techniques are most efficient and effective - and they understand the difference between those two words. They use data to inform and improve. They use their instincts to test the data. They use their instincts to pioneer new ideas and methods to achieve the top four priorities.
I expect you to follow through on these priorities. Project kick-offs, reviews, rewards and all my actions are intended to focus myself and you on these expectations in the order I just provided.

What results are you getting? What expectations of excellence are you providing to your teams with either words or actions?

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,
ALAN WILLETT