iteration, iterative process, advantageous excellence, business excellence, operational excellence, process, processes, strategy, business iteration, operationsThe concept of iteration is much like a masterful sculptor chiseling away at a block of stone to reveal a magnificent work of art. Just as a sculptor refines their creation through a series of careful, deliberate strokes, organizations can harness the power of iteration to sculpt their strategies, products, operations, and processes into something truly exceptional – achieving what we have termed “advantageous excellence.”  

What is advantageous excellence? Advantageous excellence means achieving a state of superior performance that not only stands out but also strategically leverages favorable circumstances to continually improve and adapt. It involves pursuing excellence in a way that takes advantage of opportunities for growth, innovation, and refinement through iterative processes. When we’ve been asked how advantageous excellence and operational excellence differ, we compare them in terms of focus, principles, goals and measures. See the table in the blog article.

 

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Businesses embracing advantageous excellence prioritize ongoing improvement, iterating upon their strategies, products, and operations to stay competitive and optimize their chances of sustained success in a dynamic and ever-changing market environment. And that is the focus of this episode of What’s Your Edge? In this episode, we will delve into the roots of iteration and its immense value, the iterative process itself, and offer recommendations for getting started on your iterative journey.

Business Iteration Then and Now

To iterate is to do something repeatedly. Our world changes so rapidly, that rapid iteration is essential to business success. Iteration as a fundamental concept in business has its roots in human nature’s innate drive for improvement. Humans have continuously sought to refine their tools, techniques, and processes. The earliest humans discovered that repeated trial and error efforts could lead to more effective hunting methods and shelter construction. These iterations, born out of necessity, laid the foundation for the iterative approach we use today.

The roots of iteration in business also extend deep into history, with early craftsmen, artisans, (e.g., sculptors), and tradespeople up-skilling through repeated practice and refinement. The iterative approach helped improve the quality of their products and services. Centuries later, industrialization and the advent of the scientific method elevated iteration to a formalized practice, where experimentation and refinement became integral to developing new products and technologies. Today, iteration remains a cornerstone of innovation and progress in business. It is not just about refining tangible products but also about improving operational processes, services, and even decision-making. The modern business world recognizes that, like a sculptor’s chisel on marble, each iteration is a stroke towards excellence.

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The 6 Most Important Benefits of Achieving Advantageous Excellence

Plenty of experts, especially from the world of Agile and Six Sigma, have touted the value of iteration for continuous improvement. From our perspective, these six benefits provide the greatest value:

  • Refinement: Iteration allows businesses to refine their products, services, and processes, revealing hidden beauty much like a sculptor’s chisel.
  • Innovation: Iteration fosters a culture of experimentation, closely tied to innovation, leading to breakthroughs.
  • Adaptability: The ability to iterate allows organizations to adapt to evolving market conditions and customer preferences, ensuring your organization stays relevant and competitive.
  • Efficiency: Iteration streamlines operational processes and eliminates inefficiencies, continually optimizing workflows and operations, saving businesses time and resources.
  • Risk Mitigation: Iteration helps identify and address potential issues early in the development process, reducing the risk of costly mistakes.
  • Agility: Iteration empowers businesses to respond swiftly to changing circumstances, making them more agile in a dynamic market.

The impact of iterative improvements accumulates over time leading to sustainable, long-term success. Achieving enduring advantageous excellence through consistent iteration is akin to a sculptor’s masterpiece enduring the test of time.

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How Do You Know If It’s Time to Step Up Iteration? 10 Signs

A master sculptor skillfully shapes their masterpiece with each calculated chisel stroke. These 10 signs serve as your guiding tools to achieve advantageous excellence through continuous business refinement. To attain advantageous excellence, it’s crucial to heed these signs that indicate the need for iterative progress:

  1. Declining Customer Satisfaction: Just as sculptors detect imperfections in their material and refine their work, customer feedback reveals potential areas of improvement to maintain a competitive edge and excellence. For instance, a B2B software provider receiving consistent customer feedback regarding usability issues signals the need to iterate.
  2. Stagnant Growth: When your business plateaus, adopting an iterative approach can lead to new strategic pathways for expansion, akin to exploring different angles to create the perfect sculpture, contributing to sustained success and distinction. For example, an IT consulting firm that is finding growth challenging may need to iterate its service offerings to adapt to changing customer needs.
  3. Market Changes: Embracing market trends and adapting to customer preferences is vital for sustaining peak performance. In a B2B context, a manufacturer may adjust its production processes in response to shifts in the supply chain or sustainability requirements.
  4. Inefficiencies and Bottlenecks: Removing excess material in sculpting mirrors addressing operational inefficiencies and costs, fostering superior quality and operational efficiency. For instance, a logistics company may need to change its supply chain processes to remain competitive in the market.
  5. Technological Advancements: Staying up to date with technology is essential for maintaining a competitive edge, much like modern tools empower sculptors in their craft. In a B2B setting, a financial services firm may need to regularly update its systems to reflect its commitment to continuous improvement and staying ahead in its field.iteration, process, advantageous excellence, business excellence, operational excellence, process, processes, strategy, business iteration, operations,
  6. Employee Engagement: Listening to employees is valuable for business enhancement and maintaining peak performance. For example, a manufacturing company that rewards factory personnel who identify areas for process improvement.
  7. Data-to-Insights Proficiency: The ability to analyze data and derive insights is table stakes for every organization.  The data-to-insights process is itself iterative. Use iteration to help you bridge the gap between your vision and actual capabilities, a key step towards sustained excellence. How might this play out? For example, a marketing agency may analyze campaign performance data at various intervals to make necessary adjustments, working toward continuous improvement.
  8. Competitive Pressure: Remaining competitive by adapting and evolving is the path to long-term success. When competitors begin to impact your win/loss rate, that is a sure sign it’s time to revisit and potentially modify your value proposition. 
  9. Shifts in Customer Behavior: Customer needs, buying processes, and touchpoint preferences are constantly evolving, impacting how they behave in the market. Just as sculptors adjusts their approach based on the stone’s unique characteristics, a company may need to iterate what they know about the customer journey, personas, and customer requirements and apply the new knowledge accordingly.
  10. Security, Safety, and Compliance: Changes in security, safety, and compliance protocols will undoubtedly lead to iteration. Upholding data security, compliance and safety standards is non-negotiable, mirroring a sculptor’s commitment to their craft and never compromising the well-being of their customers or employees.

Recognizing these signs is akin to the sculptor’s trained eye identifying flaws in their work. When you observe one or more of these indicators, it’s time to embrace the iterative process.

The 10 Fundamentals of the Iterative Process

Iteration is not a one-time effort; it is an ongoing process. The ever-evolving business landscape makes the ability to iterate a requirement for every organization. As your business environment evolves, it will be important to have a process that facilitates iteration. The following fundamentals provide an approach to refining your business with advantageous excellence in mind. 

  • Create a Culture of Innovation:  Establish an organizational culture that values innovation, experimentation, and the pursuit of advantageous excellence. Encourage your team to contribute ideas and take calculated risks.
  • Foster Collaboration: Collaboration across teams and departments can yield diverse perspectives and innovative solutions.,, advantageous excellence, business excellence, operational excellence, strategy, business, operations,  Encourage open communication and teamwork.
  • Set Clear Objectives: Define specific, measurable, and achievable objectives for your iterations. Establish clear goals to guide your strategic efforts and measure your progress.
  • Embrace Customer Feedback: Actively seek and embrace customer feedback. Your customers are the ultimate judges of your product or service, and their insights are invaluable for honing your offerings to meet their needs.
  • Invest in Data Analysis: Leverage data analytics tools to gather insights from various aspects of your business. Data-driven decisions are a cornerstone of effective iteration.
  • Iterate Incrementally: Avoid making sweeping changes all at once. Small, manageable steps make it easier to track and measure progress.
  • Learn from Mistakes: Mistakes are opportunities for improvement. Artisans are constantly learning and refining their techniques. Encourage your team to view setbacks as valuable learning experiences.
  • Stay Adaptable: Be prepared to adapt to changing conditions and make necessary adjustments in response to market shifts, technological advances, or customer preferences, and refine your business strategies.
  • Measure and Monitor: Develop key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the impact of your iterations. Regularly monitor and adjust your approach based on these metrics.
  • Celebrate Successes: Recognize and celebrate the achievements and breakthroughs resulting from your iterative efforts. To perfect a culture of success and continuous improvement, positively reinforce your team to stay committed to excellence.

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The Bottom Line on Advantageous Excellence

When achieved, advantageous excellence enables you to strategically leverage favorable circumstances to continually improve and adapt. It involves the pursuit of excellence in a way that seizes opportunities for growth, innovation, and refinement through the process of iteration. Businesses embracing advantageous excellence prioritize ongoing improvement, iterating upon their strategies, products, and operations to stay competitive and optimize their chances of sustained success in a dynamic and ever-changing market environment.

Finished stone porject

The cumulative impact of iterative improvements over time leads to sustainable, long-term success. Achieving enduring advantageous excellence through consistent iteration is akin to a sculptor’s masterpiece enduring the test of time, a testament to skills, artistry, and unwavering commitment to excellence and evolution. Use the 10 signs as guiding tools; and when these signs emerge, embrace the iterative process and the guiding principles to shape your business into a more refined, efficient, and innovative entity.

P.S. Operational excellence is a prerequisite for implementing advantageous excellence. Are you ready? Find out by investing in your company’s future via our Performance and Operational Excellence Assessment.

 

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