How Good is 99 Percent?

By David Paul Carter
How many times have you heard the expression: “good enough for government work?” Too often I am sure. Sometimes it may even apply to your business or other activities. Of course, that is not your standard of excellence. Most of the time you strive for better than 90 percent perfection. What if we strived for 99 percent? Sounds good, doesn”t it? No more than one error in a hundred. But how good is that really?

99 percent means the following: loss of power for 7 hours each month; 24 problem landings or takeoffs at O”Hare airport each day; 30 million incorrect drug prescriptions annually (2002 data); unsafe drinking water for 15 minutes each day.

Not a very pretty picture. 99 percent does not sound so good when put in terms we can understand. How many miss-billed invoices a month does that mean to you? What is the cost? How many shipments go out with the wrong product, the wrong count, or to the wrong address? How much does this cost the bottom line?

Worse, how often do you receive the wrong product, quantity, packaging or quality? Are shipments early or late? How much extra time and effort are added to your cost just to prepare inventory so that it is sellable to your customers? 99 percent is just not good enough.

Six Sigma is an international standard based on statistics. Proponents strive for less than four errors per million. 99 percent represents 10,000 errors per million. Is there any doubt that this is one of the factors that makes some companies such fierce competitors? There is no reason for us to accept error rates that others would be fired (or worse) if they allowed them to occur.

What can be done? The answer is your focus on Execution. Good execution delivers profit to your company and time to you. Do you have these three execution disciplines established in your company?

1. Priorities. Never have more than a handful of priorities at any given time (month, quarter, and year). Does everyone know your top 5 and top 1 of 5 priorities? If so, you will have alignment throughout your company.

2. Metrics. Do you have a dashboard of key metrics that tracks and informs you if you are achieving your top 5 and top 1 of 5 priorities? If so, you have clarity and foresight throughout your company.

3. Meeting Rhythms. Is everyone in your organization in a daily huddle, weekly, quarterly and annual meetings? If so, you will achieve faster and better decisions throughout your company.

You do not have to accept errors as a natural part of business. You can demand better. To get it, focus on the three disciplines of execution. Let others be satisfied with 99 percent. Are you shooting for 99.9997 percent?

For more information on Execution and how you can implement its three disciplines, contact David Paul Carter at 267-279-9520.

Copyright 2014 David Paul Carter. Statistics and concepts in this article based on the article by Steve Epner, founder and president of the Brown Smith Wallace Consulting Group.

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