Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cylinder of Excellence: A Study in Self Importance

The other day, a friend of mine referred to a situation in our office as an example of the "cylinder of excellence capitol of the world."

I was stunned and amazed--so amazed that I wrote the phrase down and my mind has been turning it over teasing it out in the week since it was uttered.

There was so much packed into those seven words that I still can barely comprehend the complete meaning of the phrase.

The cylinder part was fantastic as it describes an entire universe or work unit. Totally self-contained and self-absorbed with no inputs allowed from the outside.

The idea of a cylinder is that it stands by itself, unlike a sphere which can roll, and it is there for others to see and often trip over. Additionally, there is nothing connecting this free-standing cylinder to the world around it. It is because it is. Kind of a parody of Descartes "I think, therefore I am."

Add into this self-absorbed and self-important environment the self-declaration of excellence. The ego factor is increasing exponentially here. But, in fact, many places consider themselves to be Centers of Excellence--and that title is self assigned. There is no agency designated to bestow upon an organization the rating of Center of Excellence. Leadership does it in its own.

It is often used to convey a message, but in my way of thinking it all too often is a gratuitous title. If, in face, and organization is a center of excellence, then their products and services will reflect that as will the bottom line success of the organization.

And now for the closing phrase-- "capitol of the world!" Of course this is a tongue in cheek comment which really drives home the point that the dis-connectedness and the self-importance of the cylinder of excellence is unmatched and is an example for other "Wanna Be's" to emulate.

What kind of organizations are guilty of this behavior? All kinds--from civic to governmental to private industry to religious.

I have seen organizations in all of these areas pride themselves on being the "cylinder of excellence capitol of the world."

What do we need to do to prevent our organization from becoming a cylinder of excellence?

Stay connected to peer organizations and customers and partners. Also, work collaboratively--giving as well as receiving. Stay in touch.

AND--don't think so highly of yourself that you can't accept ideas from outside.

Break down the philosophy which continues to promote the "not invented here" syndrome. Open the organization to the outside and allow solid connection to others.

It is not good to be a cylinder of excellence capitol of the world--it is much better to be seen as a collaborative, open, innovative organization which constantly reinvents itself to meet the demands of the market or the customers it is trying to serve.

Just because we did it that way 10 years ago doesn't mean we need to do it that way today--but also, it doesn't necessarily mean we HAVE to change, either.

Ask the customers what they need to be successful and then partner with other organizations, if necessary, to meet the need.

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