Can we kill the word excellence? Please? (Warning: this blog is a bit of a rant.) As FieryFX has embraced our positioning as a marketing operations agency, every time I’m engaged with some sort of content about operations, it’s using the word excellence.
I’ll acknowledge that part of my reaction to this word is likely a hangover from corporate and it’s partially that it’s overused in situations where a large company is doing a disservice to its employees. But all I visualize when I hear the word at this point is Mr. Burns drumming his fingers together and muttering “excellent,” and I just want to kill it.
Listen to Season 3: Episode 4
The Overuse of the Word Excellence
I doubt that I’ll get enough of a movement behind “kill excellence” to get it actually removed from the lexicon. But can we agree that at this point, when a company says we are working towards excellence or operational excellence, we don’t really believe them? Can we agree that every employee inside the company hears that and turns off their brain? Because what’s coming next is a regurgitation of buzzwords that mean nothing and are taking up everyone’s time. Whatever happens in pursuit of “excellence” isn’t actually going to deliver value for anyone. I think what I’m saying here is that on the card for Corporate Lingo Bingo, “excellence” is the free center square.
And yes, I understand that excellence, the word itself, is not the problem. The way in which it is used in business is what I vehemently object to. It gets used as a shortcut past all the real issues and is code for “just work harder and do better.” I’m over it.
What the Word Excellence Really Means
Instead of using the word excellence, let’s talk about the tangible results of what happens when we do things better. Or when we strive for the best way to execute tasks, when we work towards what I like to call “smart business.” By the way, having these conversations requires listening to those actually doing the work and interfacing with the customers. Making sure those people have the tools and can easily surface tensions so that changes can be made. Changing process and structure so the people who are actually responsible for the execution also have the authority to make changes and make decisions and do what needs to be done.
My issue with the word excellence also stems from being involved in an ISO-9000 certification for a company. In that case, the overall objective was not clearly defined, the work required from each employee was oversimplified, and “excellence” was thrown around as an excuse to ask more of overloaded workers. As a person in this process who couldn’t actually get her day-to-day work done, I didn’t feel like I had the time to focus on processes or writing down processes or updating processes. While it’s useful, I felt overwhelmed. And the organization wasn’t actually changing anything we did.
Some Proposed Alternatives
Let’s just stop using the word excellence in a business context. Instead, let’s embrace humaneness, striving, failing forward, and continuous improvement.
I’m way more on board with continuous improvement because I think that recognizes humans will never be perfect. Excellence seems to imply that there is a destination. An ideal place we can get to where everything goes to plan and there aren’t any issues. I don’t believe that’s true.
Who’s with me for starting the hashtag #killexcellence? And again, it’s just the word and how it is misused. And instead, let’s embrace improvement. Let’s embrace being real. Let’s embrace authenticity, candidness, and vulnerability about when things aren’t going well.
Because how excellence has been weaponized is to just kill all the realness and sanitize it down to something that ends up meaning nothing.
Back on Topic Next Time!
In the next episode, we’ll chew on why you might need marketing operations. If you’ve followed the season this far, you might already suspect your race team can go faster, finish more races, and place higher with the right pit crew.
Not sure where to start with improved efficiency for your marketing team? It can be as simple as assembling information so tasks can be delegated and completed faster. I’ve created the Website Quick Reference template to help teams like yours pull together the technical details for your website to avoid delays and whoopsies when dealing with the website. Be sure to download your free copy!