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Article -> Even the Best Can Improve

Date Added: October 2005

It's football season, so what better time to talk about improvement. Yes, the Packers definitely can improve; however, let's look at a non-Packer player and relate him to organizations and employees.

Peyton Manning is the NFL's MVP for the past two years. Statistically, his 2004 season was arguably the best season ever by a quarterback. He had a NFL-record passer rating of 121.1 - 8.3 points higher than the previous best. And his 49 touchdown passes were also the best of all time.

Before last season, he believed he needed to improve throws to his left. He diligently worked on this and threw for more than 630 yards and eight touchdowns to his left in only 19 more attempts. This helped his left-side passer rating increase from 90.2 to 117.2.1 While coming off of his first MVP year, he still was looking to improve.

Regardless of all of his records from last season, a closer look reveals that he could have had 17 additional touchdown passes (66 total) if every play had been executed perfectly. While he threw only 10 interceptions last season, four were in the red zone, thereby achieving an average red zone rating of 89.0 - 20th in the league last season.

He didn't even have the highest red zone rating in his own family, as brother Eli had a higher red zone rating with a 90.5 last season. In addition, Peyton's 67.6 completion percentage was only third last season.

Coming off of a 2nd consecutive MVP season, Manning knew more improvements were necessary to become a better player, and more importantly, to have a better team. Becoming a better player (or employee) may not always be a reflection of individual statistics.

Manning was focused on improving for the current season and realized that it may not be another record-setting year for him personally; however, his goal was to help the team become better. After four games thus far, he has only six touchdowns, on par for an average 24 for the season, yet the Colts are undefeated.

While this demonstrates the consummate team player by putting his own statistics aside for the good of the team, many organizations can and should relate to Manning's continuous improvement efforts. While individuals always can continuously improve themselves, are their efforts ultimately helping the greater good - the organization (or, in Manning's instance, the team)?

Just as Manning is focusing on intangibles, organizations should do the same by:

  • Continually striving to become more productive and successful.
  • Creating a strategic plan and relentlessly executing the plan.
  • Looking to improve processes.
  • Searching to help employees become more engaged.
  • Striving to build stronger relationships with customers.

These are the intangibles that may not show up in individual employee "statistics," but taken as a whole, will show up in the bottom line. The message is clear... stay the course of your strategy, search for key areas to improve, practice and execute.

Manning was recently quoted as saying, "I am a firm believer that experience is your best teacher. You can learn every year, every game."1

The day a leader, employee or organization believes it no longer needs to improve, is the day lost customers and declining profits will occur. Unfortunately, experience tells us that it is much easier to take the time to improve when business is going well instead of when it's not. In bad times, organizations are in reactive, "keep our heads above water" modes.

While some organizations are having record years in 2005, they must search for areas to continually improve versus increasing sales forecasts on a whim. Others may not be having record years, and they must prioritize core competencies to improve to widen their gaps for 2006.

1 Pompei, Dan. "Even at the top, there's room for improvement." The Sporting News: 8/19/05, page 66.

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