My work takes me to many large and successful companies. Some of them build airplanes. Some of them make automobiles. And some of them … well, they won’t say what they do. They just smile and change the subject.
But there is one thing they all share and that is the ability to make their products with a very high degree of quality.
Quality takes time, effort and, above all, consistent attention to detail. Every step, ever facet of their product has to be done to perfection because quality is not one thing but rather the sum total. If any part is flawed, they go back and fix it. Nothing comes out that’s bad.
These companies have learned that, to make a quality product, you need a process.
Many of them use a meta-process — that’s a process about making a process — called ISO 9000.
ISO 9000 is basically a three-step plan applied over and over for each product.
- Write down the details of all the steps they follow to build a product.
- Rigorously follow those written steps, word by word, as they build the product.
- If the finished product is flawed, they go back and revise the written steps so they don’t make the same mistake next time.
When this process is followed, admittedly through several less than perfect but always improving iterations, eventually a quality product is produced. And by continuing to follow that plan, they can produce that quality product again and again.
Just follow the steps.
In Bullseye, successful shooters have a shot plan. They tweak and groom that plan over a long period of time with thousands of shots and nearly as many adjustments, compensations, blind alleys and eventual successes. Ultimately, they have a shot plan that works … for them.
And then they apply it over and over.
Each of us is different. Big hands, normal hands, stubby or long fingers, some are right-handed but left-eye dominant, some have arthritis in a shoulder joint or a knee that needs compensation.
Your plan won’t work for me, nor will mine work for you. Oh sure, we get ideas from each other but only by trying things do we find out what works, what doesn’t, or what looks like something we’re just not able to do (yet).
Trial and error. Yes, that’s the meta-process we follow.
It’s also true that, the more you practice good technique, the faster you will progress. You can’t just throw lead downrange, you’ve got to throw it downrange with care and attention — you’ve got to try and do it right, and learn as you go to do it better and better.
If you shoot a lot in a short period of time, you will memorize what you are doing. Your shot plan will be in your head and, most importantly, it will be in your body.
If you shoot less often, you’ll forget some of those details.
And if you don’t have the shot plan fully internalized but take a long break, your body and mind will almost certainly forget some of the better details.
So, your shooting won’t improve, or it might even go backwards. If that happens, you’ll just have to re-discover what works.
I’m in the midst of re-discovering the surprise break.
Yes, I know, that’s “basic”. I’m supposed to know how to do that already and, for a while, I could do it. But, for whatever reason, I seem to have lost the ability. I see my shots going down and left — a jerk. Sometimes not much but, watching the dot or the front sight, I see it. I know.
I’ve forgotten how to make … or not make, I should say … it happen.
Ink and paper are good for remembering things. They don’t forget like our brains and bodies do.
The note in my gun box says, “In Slow Fire, align the sights on the aiming area, start the trigger so it comes straight back, pour attention into the dot or front sight, and then wait … and if the shot doesn’t go or you ‘hear’ any thought whatsoever, put the gun down.”
That was how I learned to let the surprise break happen, and I’m re-applying it so I can learn that again.
Writing down your shot plan seems laborious and an overkill but the ISO 9000 folks know it works.
If you never forget any part of your shot plan, I applaud you.
But I forget things and the less often I try, the more likely I am to forget.
So I follow the meta-plan:
- Write it down;
- Shoot the plan; and
- Tweak the written plan when something doesn’t work.
Next time you ride on an airplane remember the process that brought it to such an extraordinary degree of quality. The wings don’t fall off. The door seals in the air time and time again. And, with the pilot’s highly skilled guidance, it takes all the passengers thousands of miles before the wheels contact the runway no more than a few feet from where thousands of wheels of other airplanes have put their wheels on that same runway.
Consistent. Quality. Again and again.
The plan works: Write it, shoot it, fix it.