Not so long ago I ordered something online from a major catalogue shop. It was big and needed to be delivered. Fine, I thought, saves my back or scratching my car.

Selecting the item, I proceeded to the virtual check out, chose the day I would be home and my preferred delivery time between 7 and 11am; clicked and bought. Sorted!

Nano seconds later an email arrived to confirm the order, delivery date and time. The time had changed to between 9 and 12 noon. No big deal, deliveries never come when you want and never at the beginning of the period – ever. I cancelled the tee time I’d booked for a 12 Noon game of golf; not the end of the world.

I got a telephone call on delivery day to say it would be at 11.45am; good service again. I felt slightly better about having to cancel the tee time and let my playing partner down. Then the lorry turned up at 9.30am! I wasn’t up, not until that point anyway. The delivery guys carried the big box in smiling, probably as they realised I’d panic dressed. They offered to unpack it. I signed the delivery note, they took their copy and left by 9.40am. Great service. Was the tee time still available? No.

I then noticed a strap line on the delivery note, something along the lines of “Our aim is to be the best home delivery company in the UK”.

I had ordered an item to be delivered early morning and it had been. They’d kept me informed of any changes to delivery time, later than I was expecting, but not the early one which caught me out but it was ok, funny even, bet you thought so!

So what’s not to like? Perhaps my initial mistrust in home delivery services was misplaced and my expectations had been too low. The service was fine. It was pretty much what I wanted and I suppose I can play golf other days.

But was it the ‘best’ in the UK? And how would I know? Did it need to be? For the company possibly, for me; not really – it just needed to be ‘good enough’. But if you are going to have and promote a mission statement that aspirational then the service better be good. Expectation levels will be high and scrutiny will no doubt be thorough. For me it was fine; The person I was to play golf with now knows the company don’t deliver when they said they would. That’s not good for the image of the company or their attempts to be seen as the best.

And then I smiled to myself; my employer’s mission statement is to be the best council in the UK and to help Leeds become the best city in the UK. When I first heard that’s what it had changed to I thought – wow, bit of a tall order, aspirational yes, possibly even a bit smug and how will we know? Did it mean best at every service we provide? Is being ‘the best that we can possibly be’ an appropriate substitute? Especially in the current climate. What more can anyone do than that?

I have brought my kids up to be the best they can be. It’s more about the standards they set for themselves. And this is not intended to be disrespectful to the those who agree on aspirational mission statements; quite the contrary.

When I worked in the oil exploration industry as a surveyor there was a saying in the particular line of work I was in – “it’s good enough for seismic”. It referred to the fact that the tolerance of errors was greater than, for example, in construction surveying where we are talking millimetres. It erked me because I wanted better.

I have always been a positive chap so terms like ‘good enough’ and ‘satisfactory’ feel to me like they are suggesting ‘less than possible’. It really used to upset me when I got my school reports and all the teacher could be bothered to write was ‘Satisfactory’. No clues on how I could improve or be the best I could possibly be? Maybe that’s what got me interested in the use and interpretation of words and sayings.

There have been many debates in my organisation, and no doubt the delivery company too, about what ‘being the best’ is. My take is in actually attempting to be the best, positive effort is going towards improving things. That therefore is perhaps the ‘best’ place to be.

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