What do you think about when “Bell Curve” is used? We normally think of an arch that is used in school to be used as a grading tool. Few get A’s and that is on one side of the bell, and few get F’s and that is on the other side of the bell and in the middle are a lot of C’s. In other words, the core results are considered average. Not failing but not outstanding. This is used as a way to manage our children in school and honestly, it is a management tool that is used in business as well. Finding out what the average is, and then rewarding or punishing those that are outside of average. If you look at statistical data for schools, the average has moved up over the years, so the Bell Curve has slid to one side slowly over time. But we can see that this slide could happen in either direction. And since this is used in each test to collect data, we are not really looking at movement. We are looking at where the data fell.
Falling; this is a better word, where the data falls, and this is not a Bell Curve, but more like a bowl, the data falls, some sticks to the sides and the majority collects at the bottom (the middle of the bowl) which is the average mean. This is an ineffective tool to test growth, movement, expansion. It is a great tool, however, to see what pools at the bottom and be happy with average.
Look at the Olympics for a moment. A new world record has been broken, then a year later it is broken by a faster pace. Each year the times get faster, or the aim gets more accurate. This is managing by excellence. Something that was not attainable before is now attainable and is strived at. It is not the new average, there are many, MANY of us that will never achieve those times, paces, achievements, but there are now people that KNOW it can be achieved and they work to go beyond.
The data collection for a bell curve for your business, or for a student, should not be done on a constant basis. You need to know where the data falls, (the bowl) to set up your controls and starting points. Collect your data for a year in business, but then don’t reestablish “Average” every time. If you are managing human beings this does not allow for those that MOVE. As a manager, you also shortchange yourself, because you may have inspired the whole team to be more productive, but if the measurement is on a curve, most of the team, including yourself, are not rewarded. The true test is: has there been GROWTH (which is not only units, there are more metrics than just speed, or units, or profit).
The bowl just gets people to collect and be happy with the status quo, while managing by excellence can have the whole team growing and being more effective. It will actually bring more energy to movement and thus produce even higher results. Because we are looking to do things better and not looking to be just average, correct? It isn’t that we are doing anything wrong right now; it is just a slight shift in thinking and also using correct data and measurements to see progress and growth. Motivation without a way to see if there are tangible results is just “blah blah blah”.
We as business people not only need to look at individuals, observe trends, and record data, but know how to analyze that data not to breed complacency and average results. Trust me, the general world wants that, because change and growth take pain and toil and WORK and who wants that? Those kind of results are able to be achieved by an athlete and a coach time and time again, because both are dedicated to the success, and not being average. It can be the same for your business and personal life as well. But only if you take a look at how things have been done and then refuse to “do it the SAME as we have always done it”. That is where average lives. That is where complacency breeds a kind of laziness.
John “Z” Zeydel | Owner Arkham Executive – Creator of Managing by Excellence – Butt-Kicker of a Business Coach