On the surface, arguing against flawless execution sounds a bit like arguing against Mom and Apple Pie – who would object to such an awesome level of effectiveness?
But I think the biggest issue with flawless execution is that it’s really too pricey to be a goal for most business processes. Because we humans are error-prone creatures, any project which must be executed flawlessly requires extremely expensive backup teams, backup systems, and painstaking development of check-listed procedures.
(Think about manned space flight. Then think about Olympic athletic performance!)
The thing is, even when the investment is made at this level, we still see small flaws in performance. Olympic events are thrilling because perfection is so elusive, even for the most able on the planet.
Most of the time, flawlessness simply isn’t in the budget. But dialing down a bit, to proficiency, can bring big rewards at a much more reasonable level of investment. Proficient individuals are able to adjust standard procedures to compensate for changes in the environment. What does it take to produce them? Decades of experience are helpful. Good training, the kind which includes
- exercises in working case studies of outlier situations and coached feedback on the learner’s response to those situations
- manager participation in coaching the application of best practices to the learner’s actual work
- communities of practice in which learners and veterans can “swap tales” about their challenges in applying these principles
can accelerate proficiency dramatically.