Miscellaneous Thought — What does “Best in Class” mean (and how do you get there)?

Many companies either think their organization is “Best in Class”, or want to become “Best in Class” for their given field or market they’ve chosen to be in. That is a very fine goal for anyone or any company. But how do they get there, whether it’s an individual or a whole organization?

For an individual, I think, it’s looking at what others have done in the areas of interest where one wants to do better, grow and ultimately succeed,  and how they succeeded, where their accomplishments were, or where they failed miserably and learned from it, refined themselves and then eventually became something to model one’s self after. Along the way, to become a best in class employee, we make mistakes, learn, improve, and go on to do great things – eventually.

It takes time, patience and humility to become a best in class employee. You have to know your faults, except them, and learn how to overcome them in order to grow as a person in general, and eventually helps you become the model employee all companies seek.  EVERYONE, I believe, has the potential to be a best in class employee. The problem is sometimes people are too lazy, feel unappreciated, and lack direction to get there.

So we have that established. Of course there’s more I can add, but let’s move on to how a company (in my opinion) can become “Best in Class”.

A company that wants to be in that category needs to hire talent (of course), what they deem, to quote Zeb from “Men in Black” – “We need the best of the best of the best.” So the recruiters scan the interweb to find potential talent to help them become best in class. And when they go through all the process of interviews, recommendations and references, they hire someone.   So far so good.

But what happens after that seems to get lost to become a best in class organization. Think of it this way. If you’re going to make a really good soup, you look for a good recipe, and it helps to know how to cook.  You may watch what other top chefs or cooks are doing that are great at making soup, so you can get to where they are and to learn from their mistakes and successes.

You need good, fresh ingredients (employees/talent). You then need a really good recipe that tells you how to put it all together and how much of each ingredient is needed, and when to put it in (direction). You then need time to let it simmer so all the ingredients can combine to make an outstanding soup. If something seems to be missing, you add some extra ingredients to make it more flavorful and robust.

You don’t suddenly pull things out of it or dump the whole thing down the drain when you’re almost there. With time and patience it becomes a great soup.

So, any company can become a best in class organization. But they need to see what others are doing and what they’ve done to get there. Best in Class though starts at the top (the chef), and then filters down to management (assistant chefs) so they can then guide and direct their employees (the ingredients) so they can be best in class themselves. Without good leadership and direction that goes throughout the company, then things fall apart.

You can’t hire great talent, sit them at a desk, and say “get to work” without giving them good goals to achieve. Everyone needs good solid goals and needs to know what’s expected of them. More importantly, they need to be given the means through assignments, direction and leadership to achieve those goals. Without them, they become a great ingredient that becomes stale because they’re not being used to their full potential.

So, end of year comes, reviews are meeting expectations (or less because of the lack of good leadership), and the company decides to dump a good part of it down the drain. To save face, the chef says “I just had bad ingredients.”  But the real issue is not that those ingredients weren’t great (they had to be since they were hand selected by the chef’s team) – it’s the chef who didn’t have a great recipe and some practical training to be a chef. And to add to that, his assistant chefs never got proper training either.

This leads to some ingredients weren’t put in the pot until the last minute (new hires or people who were never given goals before their review), or stirred (given direction), or time to simmer (time to learn more, grow, take initiative). So when the chef sees his soup isn’t doing so well, he throws it out and tries again by adding more ingredients. But his soup will never be what he wants it to because he lacks a good recipe and training for success.

If the chef had a great recipe and great assistant chefs who are trained in culinary arts, so they could get those ingredients to realize their full potential, then he’d have a best in class soup.

People need great leadership, great direction, clear goals, the means and time to achieve those goals, time to learn more and bring those things back to work to make it a better company, room to grow, opportunities to lead, given chances for initiative and then rewarded for their hard work. Those are things that lead to a best in class organization.

Throwing away the great ingredients because there was no recipe does not.

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One thought on “Miscellaneous Thought — What does “Best in Class” mean (and how do you get there)?

  1. Greg, I agree for the most part. I think another element is ensuring that if an ingredient gets added that sours others, it be removed as quickly as possible. To quote other management gurus (can’t pull their names out of my brain right now) ‘Great companies hire slowly and fire fast.’ One shouldn’t wait until review time to get rid of those who are making the recipe less than what it could be.

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