Perfect Practice Makes Perfect?

2handsPractice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. – Vince Lombardi.

Yesterday I touched on a couple of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits. Later Covey developed his 8th Habit— “Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.” This one habit really concerned putting the other 7 habits into practice. Implementation and execution are always difficult, because learning new habits is difficult.

Learning is Mysterious

Most of us learn by watching others. I started watching truck drivers way back in the gasoline era. Yes— at one time there were few diesel pumps around as gasoline was cheap and plentiful, before the first ‘energy crisis.’

We also learn by practice. If we are self-taught, this is not always the best way to learn because sometimes it is akin to learning by trial and error — as most of us have a tendency to over-rate our own abilities and level of skill.

In the ‘Parking Follies’ video, the first driver sets himself up to fail with his setup and everything goes down hill from there until another driver coaches and spots him. The second driver tries with all his might, but gives up in the end.

What Went Wrong?

One study of human performance by Brooke Macnamara of Princeton, David Z. Hambrick of Michigan State and Frederick Oswald of Rice, found that practice alone, while important, accounts very little for individual differences in performance (only about, on average, 12% depending on the “domain” or area of activity). Age and memory can affect learning and performance, as well as basic aptitude.

“The view that essentially anyone can do essentially anything is not scientifically defensible.” David Lubinski, professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University

The great coach Vince Lombardi found this out in his career when, in 1951, he lost 43 of 45 members of his varsity football team in a cheating scandal. It took him several seasons to rebuild his team.

Starting from Scratch

Performance is an important issue today as more and more motor carriers start their own training schools from scratch to develop new drivers. The key, I believe, as Vince Lombardi did, is to take nothing for granted and truly “start from scratch.”

Every season Lombardi opened up the playbook and started from page one. His only assumption was that the players had forgotten everything they knew from the previous season. In training new truck drivers, on day one, I would tell them to take everything they think they know and throw it out the window.

Performance experts suggest working on one new habit or behavior at a time. Take steering for example. Some carriers expect drivers to use shuffle steering as a safe and effective method to control the vehicle (versus palming the wheel, or using the hand-over-hand method). Performance driving instructor Dave Storton says making shuffle steering a driving habit can take four or five weeks of effort, if a driver is learning it for the first time. There is not enough time in the length of an average truck driving school to make shuffle steering a habit.

Another way to learn faster is by focusing on keystone habits. a term popularized by Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit.” In transportation, good driving is supported by keystone habits as preforming thorough vehicle inspections, scanning in all directions while driving, or careful trip planning. Duhigg says the power of habit comes down to self-discipline and self-discipline outperforms high IQ. As James Clear, author of Transform Your Habits said, “Each day we make the choice to become one percent better or one percent worse.”

In Summary

Take the mystery out of performance by focusing on a mastery of the basics. Get everyone on the same page by focusing on the fundamentals and building good keystone habits throughout the organization. Work at becoming one percent better.

Thank you for reading this.

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