How to Be as Good as You Can Be

Here is an analytical question, where can you see variation?  It sounds like a dumb question, you are probably looking at the screen wondering what on earth I am smoking.  Let me ask it another way:

  • When you are shopping and try on two pairs of jeans, identically sized, do they fit exactly the same way?
  • When you travel to work, does it always take the same time?
  • When you phone your dentist, do they always answer the phone in the same number of rings?

The answer to my question, where can you see variation? is everywhere.   The minute you look for it you will find it.  That is an important thing to know

Variation is everywhere

Wherever you have large groups of people all doing the same thing there will be variation in their performance.  Somebody will always be doing the job better than everybody else.  If what they are doing is important to you then understanding that variation and reducing it will be invaluable

And if you can identify that variation then it is easy to improve performance (after all half your team are already better than average):

Then everybody will be as good as they possibly could be.

But you will only see that variation if you look for it.

Are you looking?

New Jeans

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Image by irina slutsky


  1. Hi James,
    In looking for variation, is it better to decide how much ‘tolerance’ (to use an engineering term) you would like to see up front or is it better to look for the variation and then decide what amount of tolerance is acceptable and then work towards that?


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