Improvement is not a product. It is process. On the journey to improve constantly, you can never announce that you have arrived because there isn’t a destination. If you get certified against an external standard, that is a milestone which can provide a framework to improve further. Organizations often fall in trap of thinking about external certifications like ISO as a destination beyond which they lose the motivation to travel further.
A monk was tending to a Japanese garden and meticulously, for hours on end, he was removing dry twigs from the immaculately maintained flowering bushes. A passer-by, who was fascinated by the complete concentration and care of the monk at work, could no longer hold himself. He asked the monk, “O holy one, when will your work be done?”
Without looking up, the monk replied, “When the last dry twig is removed from the garden”.
“An organization, like a garden, is a living thing, and the process of removing dry twigs never ends. So, like the monk, the top management can never say, the job is done.”
Improvement was traditionally associated with growth, that if you constantly improve, you grow and prosper. As competition grew more global and fierce, constant and often dramatic improvements have become essential for mere survival.
For business leaders, it helps to adopt a mindset of Zen gardener and build a culture that strives to improve, before competition forces them to do so.
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