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No Passion, No Excellence
published by , on 09/09/2007

A few weeks ago a I had the privilege of being invited by some friends (who are passionate about Italian wines) for a short trip to Piedmont. As you can imagine this was not the ordinary cultural sightseeing trip to Italy but an exciting journey into Italian winemaking and gastronomy.

No need to mention that we tasted about 100 wines over the course of 4 days and visited two winemakers, two restaurants and at least one enoteca per day. A fairly acceptable sample to get a sense of excellence in wine making and Piemontese gastronomy.

One of the visits that struck me most was at the restaurant I Bologna, based in the small town of Rocchetta Tanaro. In that particular restaurant you are not welcomed by a particular prepared sketch, a free drink or anything commercial but by the very owner who kindly tells you and shows you what he has to offer today.

His passion for the quality of the ingredients, the wines and the impeccability of the restaurant were overwhelming. I could not tell whether it was through his charisma, his story, the restaurant itself, the professional staff or the freshness of the ingredients, but there it was: the customer experience of excellence.

As a customer, you can clearly recognize excellence when you get immersed in it. Two things stand out for me since our visit to I Bologna:

1. No passion, No Excellence
2. You don’t need an MBA to create excellence. Literacy in any academic form is not a prerequisite – rather a counter indication.

When we entered we did not step into a restaurant but we entered into a story, a firm context where the passion and perfection were abundant. We were not involved in a sales transaction but in a meaningful experience. During that brief visit, we were part of it, and now I consider myself a fan.

If Only I Could…

Stepping back into the context of management consulting, I found a lot of inspiration on Tom Peters’blog. In a recent post he gives another “rambling piece” of advice. After reading his convictions and returning to my workplace I start to wonder: could I love my profession as passionately as the chef of I Bologna? Would my customers have the same kind of experience?

In terms of Organizational change that would mean 200% identification with the customer’s situation and sharing the risk of failure (instead of saying: ‘told you so’ when things don’t work out the way they should).

Fully engaging in the challenge ahead and not stepping out when the going gets tough. Would that make a difference? I think so. Would it be easy? Not a chance. Would I have the lively experience of making a real contribution? Pretty sure about that! Just look at it from the other side: If we don’t achieve that level of excellence in our consulting work, would we not be better of doing something else? Isn’t life a bit too short for mediocrity and playing safe?

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