[Post by Chuck Krugh, October 20, 2023]
There are a lot of important words in business. I described one of those words – planning – in the blog A Powerful Word. I make the case for “planning” as a powerful word because you have to really think about what you want to accomplish in order to make a plan. I know personally that I have to think about the projects that I want to achieve, either at work or at home, before I can proceed. Sometimes on my home projects, I’ll delay starting work on them until I’m sure I have a good plan of attack.
Another important word that fits into this category is consistency. There are a few more words that I may write about in upcoming blogs, but this one is important for today.
To me, consistency means the ability to repeat something in a similar way and yielding similar outcomes. I hope you noticed that I used the word “similar” in my definition. To me, consistency does not mean that you will get the same outcomes each and every time you do the same action. Let’s take exercising as an example; every workout is not the same. For my workouts, some days my pace is quicker than other days, but the distance I travel is similar. Therefore, overall I’m pretty consistent with my workout. There isn’t a dramatic difference between one workout and another, but there is a difference.
In the work environment, workers and leaders should be consistent in their jobs over time. Let’s take the worker first and use a welder as our example. If he or she welds plus or minus X feet per shift, day in and day out, then I would say that this person is consistent because the plus or minus represents a small deviation. If I am that welder’s supervisor, this consistency allows me to plan work for this person, and I would have a solid understanding of how well we are going to do on meeting our plan of the week.
Consistency in leaders is just as important as consistency in workers. When leaders are consistent, workers understand how that leader thinks about things like work assignments, plans of the week or discipline. Workers know how their leaders will react to different situations as they arise, and this helps people communicate better.
Consistency in both the worker’s and leader’s performance provides each person with a level of comfort because there is some predictability in their relationship. They know how they can work together more smoothly.
Now let’s consider how consistency matters to the business. Consistency means having the ability to predict outcomes based on current performance. I think of outcomes in two ways: operational and financial. From an operational perspective, being predictable means we can answer such questions as: Are we going to complete the work we planned to get done that day, week, month and/or year? Will we hit our deadlines or meet our delivery commitments to our customers? From a financial perspective, being predictable helps us answer the questions: Will we make the money that we are expecting? Do we have a surplus or shortfall in cash? Are the sales as planned? Being predictable both operationally and financially is part of measuring how well we “do what we said we would do!”
When our business operates consistently, the results become predictable. This can be true in both positive and negative directions. I prefer the positive direction! Planning is much easier in a consistent business than in an inconsistent business.
Inconsistency in the business’ operation makes it much harder for us to predict outcomes; therefore, we must not only act conservatively to prepare for whatever comes our way, but we must also constantly manage the business to ensure we meet the outcomes we need to hit. It is stressful to work in an inconsistent business.
On the other hand, when the business is consistent, we have time to work other projects while running the business, which could be more process improvements to make the business more profitable or taking on new opportunities to grow the business. A consistently running business is less erratic, more predictable and more comfortable for everyone who works within it.
See you on the deckplates!
Safely Execute High-Quality Work
President, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works
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