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Jim Lilkendey
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Prayer, Conduct, and Continuous Improvement

“The right relationship between prayer and conduct is not that conduct is supremely important and prayer may help it, but that prayer is supremely important and conduct tests it.”

- Archbishop Temple

I frequently find that the best business wisdom isn’t.  That’s because wisdom, regardless of where it originates, tends to have broad application.

In that vein, I was struck a few years back by the insight in this quote by Archbishop Temple, which places the spirit and caliber of our earnest effort over the ends for which we strive.  Shouldn’t we be thinking about business this way?

Riding the Archbishop’s coattails, we might say:  

The right relationship between continuous improvements and results is not that results are supremely important and continuous improvements may help them, but that continuous improvements are supremely important and results test them.

Viewed this way, results are merely the litmus test of the quality and effectiveness of our continuous improvement efforts. This may not seem revelatory if you are part of the quality crowd, but in my experience it is not the predominant view held in business.  We hear individuals described as results-oriented, but how often are they said to be improvement-oriented or growth-oriented?

The implementation of defined retrospective loops, where we inspect our practices and adapt based on our outcomes is something that we tend to forgo, believing that it is takes time and effort away from the business of achieving results.  But, investing our energies in relevant personal and organizational improvement, learning, and growth does not detract from our ability to produce.  Rather, these activities enrich us as individuals and organizations, while enabling more effective production and higher quality output.  Perhaps that’s why W. Edwards Deming, the famous statistician and business consultant, stated “Learning is not compulsory… neither is survival.”

Finally, while this “paradigm shift” is wholly justified by it’s ability to enhance our returns, it appeals to me for one additional reason.  It further humanizes business by compelling us to focus on activities that support our self-actualization.  Talk about  a win-win.

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