Quality Is Better Than Quantity

September 27, 2018 Updated: September 27, 2018

This is the second article in a five-part series on the “Special Operations Forces Truths.” The SOF Truths are five rules that are utilized as a guide for Special Operations units for strategic planning and vision. However, successful Special Operations soldiers also leverage these rules at an individual level in their own day-to-day activities.

Now, as more highly experienced and combat-tested SOF veterans are entering the business world than ever before, these five simple rules are being leveraged as force multipliers by leaders of cutting-edge industries to grow their people in a deliberate manner, on both a professional and a personal level.

If you or your organization is interested in becoming more agile, responsive, proactive, and effective than ever before, these are the Truths for you.

The first thing we need to commit to before discussing the second SOF Truth is the existence of objective truths themselves. While society likes to pretend that equality of outcome is the same thing as equality of opportunity, the simple fact is that these are two very different concepts. Just because you want to do something, doesn’t mean you will be able to achieve it.

You are going to have people in your organization who may be committed to the mission, but they may not be up to the task. No matter how massive your team or organization is, sheer numbers alone are not enough to guarantee a lasting success. However, a small group of highly motivated and proficient people can accomplish amazing things in the face of overwhelming odds.

So what is the second SOF Truth? In just five words, it explains why most people wash out in Hell Week and never become Navy SEALs: “Quality is better than quantity.”

That’s what makes Special Forces special: Not everybody has what it takes to earn their Green Beret, but the ones who earn it are the top one-tenth of the top 1 percent.

This second SOF Truth is the thing to keep in mind when your organization decides that it is time to scale. Abandoning this universal truth at the time when its guidance is most important occurs when someone lets a sense of urgency override their rational mind.

Without the direct intercession of Lady Luck, sacrificing quality for quantity will inevitably lead to systemic failure. Panic is a poison; fear will cut deeper than any external force. You need to start off by choosing the right people and empowering them to achieve the pinnacle of their individual performance capabilities to ensure that they are ready when it is “go time.”

Twelve people who can’t get the job done correctly will just eat up your resources; a lean team of two high-performance team members will get the job done right on the assigned timeline, for the right price. The question is, are you willing to pay for quality? If not, just prepare to accept bargain bin results. You need to be realistic about your performance costs.

The last thing I want to do is cause paralysis by analysis. I am not trying to de-legitimize another important, if unofficial, commandment in the military: “Speed is security.” Being fast and agile is indeed an asset, especially if your company is in start-up mode.

Facebook famously weaponized the mantra “Move fast and break things” when it was going through its first initial expansions. At that time, it was trying to both penetrate and dominate an emerging space, where the rules were being written on the fly. Waiting to make sure everything was absolutely perfect would have allowed a competitor to come in and steal their momentum, potentially seating someone other than Mark Zuckerberg on the throne of “Emperor of Screens.”

Sometimes, being the first to market is the greatest piece of leverage to have. However, you need to have an honest conversation about whether your vertical allows for beta testing, or will the rollout of a partially developed concept put your idea in the ground?

If you are in start-up or expansion mode, focus on the quality of your team. A small team of motivated and talented people will allow you to get ideas off the ground rapidly and into the marketplace. A large team of marginally talented and motivated people might be able to get the gears moving, but are they going to be able to course-correct on the fly, or are they just apathetic line items on your payroll?

It doesn’t matter what your industry is, or even what your position is. The best thing to build your foundation on, as both an individual and an organization, is an unwavering commitment to ensuring that your standards and your expectations are unquestionable. To be blunt, a compromise here is an infallible indicator that you do not deserve the success you likely feel entitled to.

Focus on being better every day and never be afraid to expect the same from those around you. Negative thinking and apathy spread in the same way that any other virus does. Keep your organization healthy by refusing to compromise on “The Standard.”

A final key consideration: High-quality people, those desirable top performers, are an extremely limited resource. When your organization is committed to creating a culture of excellence, it doesn’t have to be a non-renewable resource. However, quality people cannot be mass produced; we’ll discuss this next with SOF Truth No. 3: “Special Operations Forces cannot be mass produced.

Chris Erickson is a combat veteran and former Green Beret with extensive experience deployed to various locations across the world. He now works in the communications industry. You can find him on Twitter @EricksonPrime.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.