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Why Committing to Becoming 1% Better Every Day Can Turn Everything around

StrategyDriven Professional Development Article |Pursuit of Excellence|Why Committing to Becoming 1% Better Every Day Can Turn Everything aroundEveryone wants to achieve a degree of excellence in their lives, whether that means developing a killer business that takes the industry by storm, and revolutionises how things are done, or whether it means being the best possible spouse, parent, or friend we can be.

To that end, it pretty much goes without saying that, at any given time, hordes of people are doing their best to carry out ambitious plans for self-development, in the pursuit of that elusive and much-craved “excellence.”

Does your business involve a decent degree of marketing? Then, no doubt, you’re interested in applying next level channel marketing strategies to really kick things up a notch. Are you perhaps not in the best physical shape of your life, but really want to be? Then, you’re probably also one of the millions of people who sign up for the gym each January, in order to make good on a New Year’s resolution to get fit.

The only problem is, it’s actually legitimately difficult to become “excellent” in any given domain. Not only that, but it’s typically difficult even knowing how to begin setting about pursuing excellence in many dimensions of life.

The thing about big plans is that they are difficult to execute, difficult to keep track of, and are prone to all sorts of hiccups and mishaps along the way. It’s for this reason, among others, that Scott Adams – the famous creator of the Dilbert comics – advises that people should forget about goals altogether, and should focus on “systems” instead.

According to Adams, “systems” are the daily routines and rituals that you act out, that move you closer to success and prosperity in a given area; whereas goals are about setting a target for some point in the future, and then living in a state of permanent dissatisfaction and disappointment, as a result.

There are good critiques to be made of Adams anti-goal stance. But, there’s no denying that focusing on certain daily “systems” can be a powerful way of achieving excellence in work and life.

One “system” that has been promoted by many serious business and lifestyle gurus, is the pursuit of becoming “1% better” in a given area, each day.

Here are a few reasons why committing to becoming 1% better every day may turn everything around for you.

Because it’s a realistic scale of achievement and progress

To use the analogy of fitness, once more – setting yourself a goal like “I’m going to run an ultramarathon,” when you currently can’t even jog 1 mile without wheezing – or setting yourself a goal like “I’m going to bench press 300 pounds,” when you currently can’t even do a single push-up – may well not be the most productive way forward.

Among other things, setting yourself these kinds of major, ambitious goals right out the gate, puts you in a position where the scale of achievement and progress you’re aiming for is extremely difficult to conceptualise, or believe in.

It’s not that you can’t achieve those feats – it’s just that, until you get closer, you may struggle immensely to “believe in” them, or to feel satisfied by the progress you’re making along the path.

Striving to become “1% better each day,” on the other hand, represents a realistic scale of achievement and progress that just about everyone can believe in, regardless of where they’re starting off from.

Of course, “1%” isn’t a perfectly mathematical calculation, here. It’s just a euphemism for making really small, but consistent, improvements every day. Perhaps you went for a 10-minute jog yesterday, and felt exhausted. So, today, try to go for an 11-minute jog. this will be achievable for you, and you will feel good about achieving it, too. Then, tomorrow, you can go for a 12-minute jog. And so on.

After a year, you’re likely to be in such a dramatically superior position in life, that it’s hard to believe how far you’ve come.

Because momentum is a large part of what success in business is all about

Success in business, specifically, has plenty to do with things like innovation, and hard work, but there’s a good argument to be made that the most important skill for any aspiring entrepreneur, is simple grit, determination, and consistency.

Of course, this applies to just about everything else in life, too. It’s rarely the people who come out with a single dramatic “flash in the pan” burst of hard work who really innovate and transform things, and secure themselves a place in the annals of history.

Far more often, it’s the people who turn up to work every day, whether or not they feel like it, and who keep iterating and optimising, and moving forward, until things come together.

Focusing on becoming 1% better every day is a great way of building that sort of momentum, and of developing the kind of “staying power” that can really move mountains over time.

Striving to become 1% better every day is also a great antidote to the all-too-common tendency of many aspiring entrepreneurs, to want to spend an inordinate amount of time at the “drawing board,” as opposed to actually making things happen.

When you know that it’s about the journey along the road of incremental improvement, rather than the “single miraculous action,” you give yourself permission to actually get started, and work out the kinks along the way.

Because it will prevent you from backsliding

Setbacks inevitably happen, and you’re not always going to be in a better position, business-wise, today than you were yesterday.

All the same, one of the great things of striving to become 1% better every day, is that it puts you in a great frame of mind to avoid backsliding, and to fight against the ever-present threat of entropy.

Even if a crisis situation occurs in your business, and puts you on the back foot, striving to become 1% better will keep you pointed upwards, and will remove your excuses for compromising, or taking the easy way out.

Ultimately, guarding yourself against the tendency to backslide is just as important as anything else, when it comes to consistency and the pursuit of excellence.

Key Strategic Action Questions

Leaders can sometimes get sidelined and stuck in a rut by focusing too much on tactics rather than strategies, and on what happened yesterday rather than what needs to happen tomorrow and the many tomorrows to come. Here are some questions to answer when you are thinking about Strategic Action. You might want to rate yourself on the questions including – how often and how well do you ask yourself and your people these questions?

Questions to Answer

1. Mission – the organization’s core work; reason/purpose for being

  • Why does this organization exist?
  • Whom does it serve?
  • What distinguishes it from other organizations?
  • What do you do that gives the organization meaning?

2. Vision – an inspiring, passionate, image of what the organization needs to and will become; a mental, even visual, model of the future; what success looks like

  • What kind of organization do you want to become?
  • What legacy do you want to leave?
  • How do you want to be perceived in the world? Be known for?
  • What does your ideal world look like?
  • What’s organizational culture do you want to create and how do you expect that culture will help you achieve your vision and strategic goals?

3. Values – the behaviors and actions that create the culture in the organization, the beliefs that drive decisions about people and work

  • What are the principles that guide your decision-making?
  • What can your stakeholders rely on in terms of the quality of programs/services/products delivered?
  • What do you stand for and how do you show that to each other?

When MVV are established and clear, you can begin to align people and work in significant and meaningful ways. Everything you do should align with your Mission, advance you toward your Vision, and be in harmony with your Values.

4. Strategies – These FEW BIG things will define how the organization will get where it wants to go. The overarching approach that will significantly advance the Vision and stay true to the Mission and Values.

5. Tactics – Those actions/activities/work, that when accomplished, will align with and advance the Strategies

  • What are the specific areas of work you want to address?
  • What do you want to have completed and by when in these various areas?
  • How will your goals advance your desired strategic outcomes?

6. Objectives – Fall within the Tactics. This is the work each person’s can identify with personally and can link to the organizational strategy, vision and mission

  • What specifically is the work that will advance the strategy and tactics?
  • Who are the right people to have this objective on their ‘plate?’
  • Who’s responsible for making it happen?
  • What are the deliverables, milestones, and time lines?
  • What resources (people, time, money, space, other) are required to make this happen and happen well?
  • What processes need to be in place (i.e. project management, change process, structure) to ensure a positive outcome?

Remember, it IS the leaders’ job to establish the mission and vision. Values should be developed with input and buy in from those who must live by them.

A vision is only a true vision when it has longevity, is not person dependent, and can stand the test of time.

Organizations need a FEW SIGNIFICANT and CLEAR, MEASUREABLE strategies to help advance the larger Vision.


About the Author

Roxi HewertsonLeadership authority Roxana (Roxi) Hewertson is a no-nonsense business veteran revered for her nuts-and-bolts, tell-it-like-it-is approach and practical, out-of-the-box insights that help both emerging and expert managers, executives and owners boost quantifiable job performance in various mission critical facets of business. Through AskRoxi.com, Roxi — “the Dear Abby of Leadership” — imparts invaluable free advice to managers and leaders at all levels, from the bullpen to the boardroom, to help them solve problems, become more effective and realize a higher measure of business and career success.

How can you make the leadership leap gracefully? Well, learning and practicing effective leadership skills is a good place to begin. When you read Roxi’s book you’ll be well on your way! Click here to learn more.

Leadership Inspirations – Pursue the Goal

“Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.”

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900)
German philosopher, poet, composer, and philologist

Leadership Inspirations – Goals

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)
Dutch post-Impressionist painter whose works were known for their vivid colors and emotional impact

Strategic Planning Warning Flag 1 – Business Unit versus Goal-Based Planning

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Warning FlagExecutives and managers maximize their company’s value when they focus the efforts of the entire workforce on the organization’s prioritized mission goals and supporting objectives. Some executives and managers, by making the mission measurable, prioritizing those measures, and sharing accountability for identifying and executing the most value adding initiatives, ensure their workforce focuses on those activities that maximize the organization’s overall value. In other organizations, planning and/or execution shortfalls allow the pursuit of initiatives that do not optimally support mission achievement; diminishing the organization’s value creation capacity. While many factors result in misaligned focus at all levels of the organization, one in particular, the failure to align the organization’s programs, budgets, and procedures to the mission’s prioritized goals and supporting objectives is the most devastating.


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Additional Information

The following StrategyDriven recommended best practices are designed to reduce the likelihood of business unit based planning while simultaneously fostering mission goal based planning:

StrategyDriven Contributors have created several illustrations to visually depict the mission to programs, budgets, and procedures alignment. The Strategic Pyramid Model highlights the alignment that should exist between an organization’s mission and its programs, budgets, and procedures. The Strategic Organizational Alignment Model reveals the typical executive and managerial responsibilities associated with identifying, reaffirming, and translating the organization’s mission into goals and objectives and then into programs, processes, and procedures.


About the Author

Nathan Ives, StrategyDriven Principal is a StrategyDriven Principal and Host of the StrategyDriven Podcast. For over twenty years, he has served as trusted advisor to executives and managers at dozens of Fortune 500 and smaller companies in the areas of management effectiveness, organizational development, and process improvement. To read Nathan’s complete biography, click here.