“The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.” – Henry Ford
I find it interesting that continuous improvement is often billed as a novel strategy by reputable business consultants. I don’t think it is a strategy, a new technique or other form of bolt-on enhancement for businesses or individuals. Rather, I believe it is an outcome of the healthy practice of evolving products, companies and ourselves in response to, or ahead of, changing market conditions (customers, distribution channels, marketing, technologies, etc.).
In business, there are many applicable metaphors, but I prefer the military “volley rate.” Volley rate is defined as the time it takes to complete the 5 steps noted below. To apply this to business, simply substitute volley rate with “ad campaign,” “marketing program” or “product launch”:
1. Load the Canon (create ad campaign)
2. Aim the Canon (determine ad spend and placement)
3. Fire the Canon (launch ad campaign)
4. Canon ball flies to target (ad campaign runs its course)
5. Assess damage (assess sales impact)
In war, the faster volley rate wins as the faster side fires more often and, thus, hones in on their target. In business, particularly marketing and advertising, a faster volley rate means results are more quickly optimized and achieved. Think: A/B testing and running mini campaigns in advance of launching broader initiatives.
In your career, volley rate also applies. Technologies and markets are changing rapidly. Those individuals who regularly assess their skills and make education a priority (reading, taking seminars, attending conferences, etc.) will enjoy continuous improvement as a result of those efforts. When you say to yourself, “Wow, I need to dive-in and learn about this,” you are basically saying that your volley rate is too slow and something is getting ahead of you.
A job search is very similar, as the ability to hone your search with a fast volley rate is critical to shortening the search and landing a position that you really want – particularly if it’s a competitive market.
The over-arching lesson here is that in everything you do, a fast volley rate is critical. Along the way, the most important part of each volley is gathering facts (be sure the sources/facts are validated) and analyzing the results. Skipping that step means you are not aiming precisely – that’s called the shotgun method and it’s notoriously ineffective.