Vince Lombardi said, “The quality of a person’s life will be determined by the depth of their commitment to excellence no matter what their chosen field”. In other words leaders who believe in quality know that the market pays superior rewards only for superior performance.
Such leaders tend to borrow a leaf from what Dr. Martin Luther (Jnr) said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say there lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
Martin Luther King (jnr) was talking about how every person should produce excellent quality work whenever called upon to do so. I believe he quoted ‘Michelangelo; in his statement because Michelangelo’s attitude towards quality work was baffling.
For example, in St. Florence (Italy), there is a special museum that was built to house the statue of David, created by him several years ago. This is perhaps the most beautiful piece of sculpture in the world. I am told that when it was unveiled, the crowd stood gaping in awe. It was breathtakingly beautiful and many people cheered and women fainted when they saw it for the first time. I am further told that when he was asked afterwards how he was able to create such a master piece, he replied,” I saw David complete in the marble all I did was to remove everything that was not the David.” This is a simple statement indeed but heavily loaded with life lessons about our attitudes towards quality standards.
From the foregoing, I have learned a great lesson that quality is never an accident. Therefore business leaders and others need to impose a mantra of first time quality on the teams that they lead. Taking the building sector for example, some building contractors seem to routinely put up shoddy construction. Why is it not possible to maintain a high standard every time you do something so that you build your brand reputation and minimize any costs arising from re-doing it? Why is it that some utility companies are constantly on the road, attending to leaks, blackouts and cut-offs? Why is it that you buy a house that looks so beautiful only to start repairs after one month?
In my view, it is possible to meet first time quality requirements if we are committed to do so. I say so because I have been picking up my daughter from school occasionally but have never mistakenly picked up a wrong child from the same school. I know also for a fact that no employer erroneously pays out a wrong salary to an employee. The reason is that we are quite conscious of these tasks that they are usually done right the first and every time with great precision. There is a great attention focused on them that one cannot imagine the consequences of not getting them right the first time.
It is possible to reverse the trend of quality in Kenya. A Mexican marathoner named German Silva and his team was leading the pack with about a mile to go when Silva took a wrong turn down a side street. He ran a couple of hundred yards in the wrong direction before realizing his mistake. He reversed the path, got back on the right road and overtook the leader to win the 1995 New York City marathon by only two seconds. Therefore, it is never too late to reverse our path and get back on the road to quality standards. We are tarnishing our names and our companies and businesses for not doing our best to produce quality goods and services.
Shakespeare wrote,” Who steals my purse steals trash but he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed.” When you deliver less than your best, you deliver damaged, inferior goods with your name on them.
To be able to reverse the attitude of low quality, every person or leader need to embrace principles of excellent quality standards.
First, you need ensure that you do not settle on average because ‘Average’ is where quality is buried.
The second principle is that every leader needs to develop a deep commitment to quality. The quality of a leader’s leadership will be determined by the depth of his commitment to excellence in whatever field he is in.
The third principle is that a leader must possess ethics and integrity. Whereas ethics are moral standards grounded on principles that govern a leader’s beliefs, integrity on one hand is an integration of words with behavior. Thus a leader must develop a mental attitude that controls his beliefs on the level of quality he intends to achieve.
Fourthly, a leader who stands for great quality develops genuine respect for others. In this case to respect means to honour, to esteem, to value highly to place much worth on another. Therefore you cannot claim to respect people when you sell then substandard goods and services.
The fifth principle is for every leader to go an extra mile. In other words an excellent quality spirit goes beyond the call of duty. How many people do you know who do only what you ask them to do? Remember that you beat 50% of the people by working hard. You beat another 40% by being a person of honesty and integrity and the last 10% is a dogfight in the free enterprise system and if you have to survive here you have to go to the extra mile.
The sixth principle is to be consistent. People forget how fast you do a job but will never forget how well.
The seventh principle is to never stop improving. Excellence in quality is a gradual strive of trying to be better. Jean Giraudeuse said,” Only the mediocre die always at their best. Real leaders are always improving and raising their bar on how superbly they can perform and quickly they can move.”
The eighth principle is that always give 100%. People who believe in quality go beyond the call of duty in the realm of personal pride and always see their work as their signature.
The ninth principle is that make quality a lifestyle. Do it right the first time all the time. Remember that your first time is your last chance to make an impression. Therefore let there be a spirit of quality upon you.
The tenth principle is that never compare your work with someone else. Leaders of excellent quality never look at what others are doing as a measure of success. They have a spirit of competition with themselves and compete with what they did last.
The author Arthur Gordon once approached Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM and asked him how he would succeed twice as faster, Watson replied with these profound words;” If you want to be successful faster, you must double the rate of failure because success lies on the far side of failure.”
In the same way, if you want to attain excellent quality faster, you must double the rate of improvement because quality lies on the fair side of improvement scale.