I’ve had the good fortune of seeing Michelangelo’s David and the Chihuly museum in Seattle. While most art is over my head, I found both of these fascinating.
Having seen many stone statues, I didn’t expect much from David. But it is astounding. As soon as I walked into the room where he stands, I was awestruck. No way to explain the beauty, but it is there.
When asked how he created the masterpiece the artist is alleged to have said “I cut away everything that did not look like David.”
Chihuly glass art is on the opposite end of the visual spectrum. It is multi-color, often multiple pieces staged or assembled to create an amazing sight.
When interviewed, Dale Chihuly said he has a vision without specificity, but that he’ll know it when he sees it. Many, often hundreds of pieces are created and then assembled in an almost haphazard way.
Until he gives specific instructions about a specific location or piece. Those small touches create his vision.
Michelangelo was thinking in traditional subtractive “manufacturing” concepts while Chihuly thinks in additive concepts. Each has a vision. The steps along the way are not obvious to those watching, or to those participating, but in the end something amazing is created.
Each knows if he’s moving the right direction despite no “this must come first” process. Despite one approach based on additive and another on subtractive.
In the search for “operational excellence” many leaders and executives struggle with the lack of a detailed step-by-step plan, disturbed by the ambiguity. And yet there is no one way. There is not even one process.
There is the vision, there is the cutting away what does not match the vision, there is adding new pieces to augment what is there. The vision can evolve as more is learned.
This is why I encourage all my clients to visit a variety of operations. To begin to create their own vision of what is to become their operational excellence. Talk to the most impactful leaders in organizations you want to emulate. Learn, grow, cut away and add to your operations to move them ever closer.
Then visit more places and talk with more leaders. Learn more. Grow more. And cut away and add more to your operations.
Cut away whatever doesn’t look like excellence and add what makes it more complete.
Don’t let anyone tell you there is only one way. There is what works for you and for your organization. You’ll know it when you see it, and when you do, you begin to see your vision come to life.