Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Sign in the Shoe Store

"The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten."

The sign hangs near the front door of a locally-owned shoe store near where I live. It caught my attention because of the use of language. What a great phrase "the bitterness of poor quality" is! That's exactly right. You feel betrayed by shoes, or a car, or new software, or anything you buy that doesn't live up to your expectations of good quality. It's so much more expressive than its more common cousin, "You get what you pay for."

The same is true about the work we do. We pay with our effort, and the goods we take away are the results of that effort. By the work we do, I mean not only the hours we spend in our offices, or driving a taxi, or stocking shelves, or teaching a class. I mean all the work we do—as volunteers, as friends—in short, as people. If we put in little effort, our results are usually not very good. If we put greater effort and more thought into any one of our activities, the results improve measurably. Imagine how our lives could be of we took great care about everything we do!

If you follow me on Twitter, you've probably seen my little mantra: Do. Improve. Repeat. Take an action, improve your action; then repeat the improved action, and so on. And how do you gauge improvement? It's measured in quality of outcome. I know I'm swinging my golf clubs better now because the ball goes farther and straighter than it did. There is no real "perfect" in golf. All you can do is continually improve. There's no real perfect in life. But continual improvement is what we can aspire to.

Give it some thought.


  1. Do.Improve.Repeat is a great place to start. I wonder though -- Is quality a function of customer focus? If we truly care emotionally about our customers, how can we not help but constantly work to improve and do it without hurting our customers?

    Haven't we all seen far too many "improvements" that disrupt the relationship with the customer or make the customer do all the heavy lifting?

    Quality matters -- because we DO care about the customer.

    Doug Smith

  2. Great comment, Doug. Poor customer service produces that bitterness before you are even out the door of the store, doesn't it?