I was recently listening to an audio book that made an analogy about sports and business.  While I agree with many sports and business analogies, this one was about practice, and my feelings are that sports and business practice in very different ways.

If you define practice as “engaging in an activity again and again for the purpose of improving and/or mastering it”, then the majority of the time in sports is spent PRACTICING and a relatively small amount of time is spent PERFORMING.  In business, the vast majority of our time is spent PERFORMING (doing our work), and almost no time spent PRACTICING.  OR IS IT?

One of the keys to the success of our IT services business was that we treated our work as practice.  We constantly used our documented past work experiences (processes) in our current activities, and we were always refining them to improve our effectiveness and efficiency.  This perpetual improvement cycle supported our philosophy of “first be good, then be fast”.  

If a team member was doing a task that someone has done before and/or that someone will be doing again, they were expected to either be following a process or creating one – which meant everyone, no exceptions, from our most entry level techs to our most senior.  This strategy kept our processes fresh, thus improving quality, consistency, supportability, and capacity (with having good processes increasing the number of people who could perform a task).

I receive many questions around how we were able to be so process-oriented and get people to use those processes.  First, we were opportunistic on creating our processes.  We used every opportunity to perform a new task by creating the process for it, and we usually had senior techs responsible for creating and modifying our processes.  Second, we would weave processes together in our work plans (while we didn’t have dedicated practice time, we did spend significant time planning). These work plans would dictate which processes were to be followed and which new ones would be created.  There was accountability around the work plans, creating a culture of symmetry; the organization would call someone out if they didn’t follow a process (one of our core values being Methodology: The relentless pursuit of predictability.).

By treating our work as constant opportunity to practice, we were able to drive consistently better outcomes.



What I am reading:
Professional:  Deep Workby Cal Newport – Amazon Link
Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
Personal: The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan – Amazon Link
A New History of the World