On Performance


I’ve just finished reading Better – A surgeons notes on Performance by Atul Gawande.  This book discusses how better measurement and uniform application of currently known techniques could have a transformative effect on patient outcomes. In Gawande’s view it is the application of knowledge and not knowledge of medicine itself which can often make the difference between average and great results.

Unlike medicine, Selling online is rarely a matter of life and death, but I found many parallels between my business and the ideas discussed in this book.   We have been working to raise our game and move from giving a good service to our customers, to a great service.  After a difficult Christmas we have looked at all our processes and asked ourselves how we can improve.  This has meant things like creating more room in the packing area, using better packing materials and sending everything tracked. By streamlining lots of little processes we have created a much smoother system where we can ship more orders with less stress.

In the final chapter of his book, Gwande gives 5 suggestions for becoming a positive deviant (i.e. a positive outlier, ahead of the curve), which I thought I would share.

Ask an unscripted question

By asking someone an off topic question, you humanise the situation and build relationships.  My one New Year’s resolution was to talk to more random people, be this at a party or on a train and not just look at my oh-so-tempting shiny iPhone.  So stop cradling your device and talk to someone!

Don’t complain

Lets face it, nobody like a whinger.  In fact if you complain about something, the listener is more likely to think less of you than the object of your complaints (source: 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman).  Also,  by acting positively, you are more likely to develop a positive outlook on life (source: Rip it up by Richard Wiseman)

Count something

By this, Gawande means take an interest in the performance of something you care about.  It is only by measuing things that we find out what is going well and what is going badly.  This is something I have always been bad at.  I can blame difficulty in collecting data but that is a feeble excuse.  Note to self: try harder.

Write something

Life is a series of small insignificant actions. Shipping parcels in my case, seeing patients with routine medical issues in Gawande’s.  It is easy to get bogged down in the day to day grind of working, but by writing about it you become part of a community of like minded people.  Good advice.  Note to self: blog more.


Be constantly innovating and thinking of better ways to do things.  Change is inevitable and should be embraced and not feared.  For a interesting exploration on attitudes to change, read Who moved my cheese.



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