General management, Working practices

Achieving excellence is hard work

Some time ago I was working with a team that made a mistake in generating its release notes. I took on the task of improving the process to avoid us making that mistake again. It shouldn’t have been difficult, because someone else told me how they thought it should it be done—I just needed to make sure people knew about that revised approach.

In fact, it took an awful lot of time. First someone didn’t like the revised proposal, because it made their work a bit more difficult, but they came up with an adjustment which solved that problem. Then someone from another team demonstrated a completely different approach. Overall it took several hours of effort over three weeks to find (what I considered to be) an appropriate solution. This wasn’t seeking democratic agreement; it was trying to understand the best solution and communicating it. This required talking to people, writing up proposals, getting feedback, and going round the loop again.

Sometimes I stepped back and marvelled that this shouldn’t be taking so much effort. Release notes are just a simple text file, after all—how hard can it be to work out how to produce them?

But equally, I considered the alternative: a flawed system that allowed errors. I’m reminded that excellence is, almost by definition, a rarity. So we shouldn’t be surprised when our work to improve things, which is the first step towards excellence, is difficult. And we should not give up before the end.

Photo by Inigo Lopez



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