Sir Clive Woodward was knighted at the start of 2004 in honor of having coached England's rugby team to the World Cup title. But by year end, Woodward had quit. Why? Because, even though the team had captured the title, he felt the squad's organizers weren't trying hard enough to get even better.
Sir Clive says he learned to drive for constant improvement as a result of working for an American company, Xerox. Now he's applying that philosophy in his role as director of the Elite Performance Program for the British Olympic Association. Its slogan: "Better Never Stops."
That phrase reminds me of the attitude I've found at many successful LBM operations. Their executives exude a palpable sense of restlessness. Employees' eyes and ears are open to new possibilities as well as ways to do existing things better. Their owners and managers are the ones you're most likely to see at trade shows and in roundtables. Some run small stores, others oversee multistate goliaths. But all are on the move.
The operating style of executives at the top shops also supports the notion that LBM champions emerge as a result of the relentless accumulation of small improvements. We've known this about athletes for quite a while. Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell made clear this is true in other métiers as well when, in his book Outliers, he wrote that scientists have found one must spend at least 10,000 hours on something–20 hours a week for 10 years–to become truly great. No wonder there are no overnight successes in LBM.
Peter Ganahl, president of Ganahl Lumber in Anaheim, Calif., sounds a similar note in a regularly updated statement of beliefs that he has titled "The Intelligent Lumberman." One section lists the four qualities he believes are inherent in a successful manager at Ganahl: character, getting results, developing people, and–most important for today's message–driving change.
He writes: "Leaders are responsible to be constantly driving small changes in their organization that lead to continuous improvement. We must constantly be looking for better ways to do things and then implement them."
You'll find ideas to fulfill that operating philosophy in virtually every story we're publishing this month, as well as tales of dealers who spotted an opportunity or embraced a new way of doing things. Even our Product Monitor on subflooring follows this theme, because it tells how manufacturers examined a product that's generally dismissed as a commodity and found ways to improve its performance.
As Sir Clive says, Better Never Stops. Neither should you.