Continuous improvement
as seen by the All Blacks

Continuous improvement is a vast subject, and there’s a lot to be said for it. This process, which can be defined as the desire to continually do better, has inspired numerous methods that help to boost productivity and competitiveness. But to introduce managers to the benefits of continuous improvement, I often prefer to quote one of my favorite books – Legacy by James Kerr – and give the floor to a rugby team with a legendary record of success, the All Blacks…

Leadership specialist James Kerr has compiled in his worldwide bestseller the fifteen great lessons that the New Zealand rugby team can teach us to better manage a team and a company. By analyzing their training methods, he was able to identify the reasons for their incredible success, so that they could be transposed to the world of work. I really like this book, which we’ll have a chance to talk about again, but it especially contains this sentence that I often quote in training:

“You have to leave the jearsey in a better place.

You have to leave the jersey in better condition. That says it all. By donning the legendary jersey, an All Black does much more than just play rugby. He represents all those who have gone before him, and must keep the legend alive until someone else replaces him. He can’t afford to be less good, or even to be “as good” as the previous champions; he has to do everything in his power to surpass them. Every time they pull on the black jersey, the New Zealand players put their legend back on the line, and this gives meaning to their efforts. Each of us, at our own level, can draw inspiration from this philosophy of life to surpass ourselves in our activity. What’s inside me? What embodies me? What is the meaning of my actions? What is the deeper meaning of what I do? How can I surpass myself to help the team win?

To succeed in achieving this goal, the All Blacks’ advice is given by a former All Blacks player, and it’s quite simple:

“Success is modest improvement, consistently done”.
Sean Fitzpatrick

Success is a modest improvement, constantly achieved. All it takes is daily micro-improvements to achieve victory, or more prosaically, sales targets. It’s by continually looking for ways to improve one detail after another that we end up becoming the best. It may seem like nothing, but when you manage to make progress on the smallest things every day, you end up continually surpassing yourself, according to the famous principle of continuous improvement.

What are you starting with today? How about a little Haka to cheer us up?