Lowering the bar of excellence

I heard someone make the comment recently that “the bar for excellence has been lowered.”  This comment struck me until I realized that so many things in life we now consider “excellent” are far below what would have met that same criteria years ago.  How about a few examples:

  • When I was in high school, we had only one chance to take the college entrance examination (e.g., ACT test).  You accepted that one result and your decisions about which college to attend, how much scholarship money you received, and “bragging rights” hinged upon that one result.  Today, you can take the exam many times and only the highest score counts.  My wife and I had to remind our three children of that many times over the years as they took the test again to better their score.
  • My mother-in-law has a refrigerator in her basement that is still running well at over 50 years of age.  Today, you feel lucky to get 8 or 10 years of life from a refrigerator.
  • Years ago, there was a minimum standard of acceptable dress expected when you went shopping.  Today, there are entire websites dedicated to the sloppy appearance of shoppers of at least one store chain.
  • Standards of acceptable behavior are different today than several decades ago.
  • Stradivarius violins made hundreds of years ago are still considered the finest sounding violins in the world today.

Have we lowered the bar of excellence in the world of compliance or for our leaders?  Do we allow things to occur today that would have been considered unacceptable last year?  Have our standards for an acceptable investigation report lowered?

The bar of excellence is affected by gravity.  So, unless we are doing something to intentionally prop it up, the bar will fall and we will accept behaviors, work product, or results less today that would have been acceptable in the past.  So, how can we prop up that bar?  Do we really believe in continuous improvement?  Or, are we more interested in consistently just getting by?  Do your own work, effort, and results model the attributes of excellence?  Are we working to sustain our gains long-term or are we just interested in getting through today?  Today’s challenge is to consider again what it takes to be truly excellent and re-commit ourselves to pushing up that bar.

Have a stunning day!

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