Excellence could be argued to be the toughest amongst all virtues to pursue, for the simple reason there is no ULTIMATE in excellence. The goal post keeps going further once you reach it much like the classic Vikram - Betaal story where king Vikram would be asked a question - right answer means the Betaal vanishes & wrong answer means death. Every correct answer unfortunately means catching the Betaal all over again.
Excellence is like a mirage, only to be pursued and never to be attained. Perhaps this is the reason why very few amongst us practice to become excellent…it is hard-work whose severity only increases.
If we are to look at those who consistently pursue excellence, there seems to be an interplay of 3 elements at all times - Ability, Commitment & Intentionality
Only those who fall in space “Z” will at any point in time be able to deliver excellent results. Let us try and see what each of these spaces mean:
a = Ability + Commitment
I am able and committed to my work. Picture the generation of parents who spent 40 years working for their employers. They were committed and hard-working. But a large percentage of them spent their life in similar kind of jobs. What these people managed to do was maintain the ‘Status Quo’
b = Ability + Aspiration
Aspiration here is defined as the sum total of “Ambition + Intentionality”. Only ambition is “I” centric and hence selfish. When intentionality accompanies ambition, desire for self elevates to a higher plane to accommodate other’s interests too.
Only ambition in absence of intentionality would mean pursuit of excellence (hypothetically speaking) for personal gains only. Such efforts rarely bear results to their fullest potential.
Only intentionality in absence of ambition would mean absence of hunger. A lot amongst the generation of people mentioned above in space “a” fall in this category. Intentionality in absence of ambition is unlikely to result in something new or better.
People in space “b” however are unlikely to bring about any change at all. An able individual with right aspirations but unwillingness to commit will never be able to add any tangible value. It is easy to visualize such people in context of personal relationships.
c = Committed + Aspirational are likely to bring about significant improvements in there are of work. But these improvements are likely to come at the cost of high personal effort because of low ability.
Space “c” is highly fluid, people in space “C” are in a transit mode on their way to space “Z”. It is difficult to find a committed individual with aspirations (as defined) continue to be mediocre in personal abilities (read skills). Such a person will invariably take the efforts to re-tool, re-skill at any point of time. What will be need is proper guidance / mentoring.
Space “Z” then means a person who is capable, committed & is highly aspirational. All 3 gears have meshed well and the system will be in state of perpetual motion. Circumstances can lead to slippages to space “B” (most likely), space “C” (less likely) or Space “C” (unlikely). It is the prerogative of organizational leaders to halt this slippage. Circumstances could well be personal but consequences of the slippage have significant implications to the organization.
Why reaching & staying in space “Z” is such a difficulty can be appreciated from the perspective explained thus far.
What implications if any does this model have on organizational development?
- Ability can always be developed if there is commitment & desire. Hence our recruitment methods need to focus on the latter two rather than just on the easy to measure “Ability”
- People in space “A” add value but will always be on the lookout of other / better options. It is the leader’s prerogative to understand what is missing – “Intentionality” or “Ambition”. If ambition is missing, I will not hesitate to invest time & energy in the person but if intentionality if missing then consider the “Employee-Organization” relationship to be purely transactional.
- If a person seems to be in space “B”, as a leader I would want to know whether is a slippage from “Z” or it is the constant position. If constant, then implication would be incentives (For performance delivered) only in the form of monetary compensation but not in terms of higher responsibilities.
- Space “C” as mentioned is fluid. Leaders ought to mentor these people because they are high value resources.
It does not however mean that all individuals always have a combination of any 2 elements. Some people may only exhibit one of the 3 virtues, such people are unlikely to add any significant value (exception being of those who are committed only) and can be let gone off
While the essay might suggest relevance only for the HR department (as a tool perhaps) but the purpose is certainly not so.
No person can tell me EXACTLY where I stand on the diagram. Only I can accurately measure that. But “Will I?” and “Should I?”
People in space “Z” happen to be the most contented & obviously highly paid. They happen to be equally happy in their personal lives too. Knowing where I stand will definitely allow me to decide / take necessary corrective actions so that I am able to add maximum value to myself & my organization.
Pranil Naik is an Entrepreneur, Professor and a Business Consultant with over 15 years experience across various domains. He is a Professor at Xavier Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai and Founder of LeapForWord which is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the cause of enhancing English language skills of children and youth from under-served communities.He is an alumnus of SIMSREE, Mumbai.