Continuous Improvement and the 212 - The Extra Degree

I recently came across a sales and general motivation tool by Sam Parker (video link: that focuses on the idea of going the extra mile. The idea is that steam is a powerful source of energy (e.g. the steam engine), but if you only get the temperature to 211°F, nothing will happen. Those that make the extra effort to get it to 212°F are the ones who will move the engine.

The video points out that the average margin of victory at the Indy 500 over a ten year period is only 1.54 seconds. Think about that – drive 500 miles at a high speed and you win by less than 2 seconds…all the planning, preparation, investment and time that went into it comes down to mere seconds. It reminds me of a proposal effort – years of prospecting, developing relationships, planning, and investment of time, people and resources, to convince a prospect to use us. How do you know when you are at 210°F, and how do you know when it is boiling?

Until you know if you have been awarded the work, you don’t know if you made steam. Fundamentally, the key here is that consistent winners don’t care about when the steam is made – because that is when you assume you stop pouring it on. Consistent winners see “212°” as the minimum – less than that is not enough. Less than that is not acceptable.

So what is it that we do every day that we can take to the next step? Make one more job walk? Make one more prospecting call? Go through the drawings one more time to check for a missed detail? It takes discipline and commitment and attention to detail that differentiates one provider from another. The goal is to be a consistent winner. We need to strive for continuous improvement and never be complacent about our position.

The only thing you only need to win once and not continue to work at is the lottery.

Every day, every project, every client, every challenge is different. Each one is a new opportunity to do better. When we take on those opportunities with the intent to find new ways to improve, we will be adding more degrees to the water. I find that pretty exciting.

“Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we shall attain excellence.”

Vince Lombardi

“Improvement begins with I.“

Arnold H. Glasow