Monday, 5 September 2016

The road to excellence

Antoni Peris

We often ask ourselves whether we are still good professionals or whether we are stagnating; whether our work is good or whether it can be better; whether we treat our employees well or whether they’re taking the Mickey; In this case, can we ask more from them? How do we inspire them to do better?

Whiplash has been one of the best rated films of the season. The story of Andrew, an ambitious young man who wants to become the best jazz drummer, enrols in the world’s best school in New York and has to face a teacher who demands everything he has to offer and a lot more. Whiplash shows us the path to excellence, assumed by teacher and student. However I think it’s very far from what we need to think about in our organizations.

With some similarities in "Heartbreak Ridge" (Heartbreak Ridge, C. Eastwood, 1986) Chazelle is presenting a series of clashes between two similar personalities. Although the young man is subjected to continuous threats and attacks from his superior, they are both looking for the best interpretation. For Fletcher, the conductor, the two worst words are "good work", as these tend to slow the best in their evolution towards excellence. For Andrew, success must be sought at any price. By alternating short and long shots, inserts, blistered fingers, sweat, saliva and blood, contorted faces, Chazelle creates a crescendo to a remarkable final.

The argument however is limited to posing an ethical dilemma based on an unlikely pledge. To what extent must we demand excellence? What is the best method to achieve it? Is any medium valid? Fletcher says that if someone is really good, they will not stop until they achieve success, whatever their odds. The pledge overlooks the moral question previously posed. And despite the cinema appeal, we can’t ignore how wrong this strategy can be for vocational training, how negative it can be for the training of the team or how counterproductive it can become when it comes to establishing a constructive leadership. Somewhere between the pursuit of individual excellence and the development of the entire organization, between perfectionism and the recognition of the necessary effort, we must continuously adjust the objectives to reality if we wish to move forward in a progressive manner. We ought to remember that we are not artists or elite athletes but we are part of work teams. And for further clarification we can always ask synchronized swimmers what they think about it!

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