Making the best better

“Good enough” rarely is.

Jeffrey Swartz, President and CEO of the Timberland Company has been quoted as saying, “In the business world, ‘good enough’ rarely is.” He used this phrase in the company’s 2005 social responsibility report. One of Timberland’s slogans is, “make it better.” This is both a promise to their customers and a challenge to their staff to reflect on their progress and commitment to even greater excellence.

In 4-H, we can and should adopt the same strategy. One of our slogans is “making the best better.” Each year, our volunteers put forth tremendous effort to make things better by teaching skills to young people, mentoring, coordinating events and even recruiting and training other volunteers. They are able to reach out into communities, neighborhoods and schools and make things better for our children. It is important that we continue to pass on organizational knowledge from year to year so that our work can have an even greater impact.

Michigan State University Extension says that one of the many tools at our disposal is evaluation. Are the 4-H programs taking place in your community being evaluated? Are you documenting your successes and lessons learned? What are you doing with this information? Is it being used to create training opportunities and in-services to strengthen your volunteer force, or is it sitting in a file cabinet?

Something as simple as debriefing and documenting what went well, and what didn’t go well, after an event can empower volunteers to stop reinventing the wheel, take more of a sense of ownership and renew their commitment to excellence. The next time this event comes around, all of the lessons learned can be put into practice.

We need to continue to push our volunteers and ourselves to do more, learn more, be better and to be excellent. In the end, that raises the bar for all of us and the real winners are the children we serve.

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