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'Winning Ugly' - the real art of continuous improvement?

I see a lot of frustration in businesses when it comes to implementing continuous improvement projects. I see it so much that it reminds me of a phrase I heard from a performance psychologist called Dr John Eliot. He was talking about the frustrations of performances not turning out exactly as planned and talked about the ability to 'win ugly'.

This phrase stuck in my head because it translates directly across to the world of continuous improvement. You come up with a game plan, you execute the plan and then review the results. Sometimes they are as predicted, other times they are better (and many times they are worse). At this point you can choose how you want to proceed. Some people get upset that the results weren't amazing and give up. Other people see the results for what they are, feedback, and then they choose to have another attempt.

If you're a regular reader of this blog then you will see this theme running through my posts; continuous improvement needs to be continuous - you've got to keep going in order to achieve meaningful results.

A really good example of 'winning ugly' is when you implement a new process (especially standard meetings) and the first attempt is awful when compared to the vision you had in your head. Instead of all of the pieces of the process fitting neatly into place at the right time the process falls over and looks a mess. If you keep going then enough practice will take place and you will achieve the slick new process that you want in your business. You usually have to go through the messy phase in order to get to the slick phase.

So, are you prepared to 'win ugly'?

Are you prepared to keep going with your new improvements when they aren't quite working out for your business?

Can you give people time to get the hang of new processes and stick with them so that they can make the new processes really work for your business?

Will you live with the short term state of imperfection in order to achieve your continuous improvement goals?

Great, then go to it.


Giles Johnston
...optimising MRP systems and re-engineering business processes