“If you believe you can accomplish everything by “cramming” at the eleventh hour, by all means, don’t lift a finger now. But you may think twice about beginning to build your ark once it has already started raining” — Max Brooks, The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead

“How are your 1/2 marathon preparations going?” my friend asked regarding the race I plan to run at the end of January. “Rough,” I replied. “Ten years ago I ran multiple marathons and even ultra-marathons. So I thought it would be easy to do another one. But somehow, after minor heart surgery and 8 years of not much running, I am finding it very difficult to get into form. Who could have guessed running a 1/2 marathon would be hard? Who knew?” It is a bit embarrassing for me to admit, but I really did think it would be easy. It turns out running races actually does take training. This is also true for other ‘simple’ things like organizing a major event. The first time the event is run, proper preparation is done in detail. The event goes great. Later repeat events start to get a bit worse as people start to believe the event can run itself. Then, sometimes after a very bad event, people see the need to recommit to the preparation they know how to do. Miraculously, the event is great again. Recently I was talking with a former client. We had done work together about 10 years ago when their organization had significant quality issues. We put into place a number of disciplined quality practices that solved the quality problems. I asked him how the quality of the product was faring. He answered, “The quality of our products is great now. In fact, we are finding we don’t need most of those quality practices any more.” When I was running lots of races, I found them easy. I thought it was because I was good at races, I didn’t think about the training. I do wonder how the quality experiment will turn out 10 years from now? Are things going well? No need to wait for them to become difficult. Be aware of the underpinnings of your success and stay committed to those practices so that your future runs will remain smooth.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
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