Building Excellence through Cycle of Improvement

Building Excellence through Cycle of Improvement

The story went that Rabbit and Turtle had a race… felt over-confident with an early lead and fell asleep under the cosy tree, and Turtle won the race.  That was the part that everybody heard and everybody knew. But do you know how bad rabbit felt after the race?

Rabbit was the top athlete of the animal world, but he was defeated, disrepute and disgraced. He repented,  learnt from his mistake and challenged turtle for a rematch. This time round, he didn’t stop.  Like Usain Bolt, Rabbit sped all the way, never looked back, never stopped, and all the way to the finish line. Turtle didn’t have a chance

Turtle being forever wise and patient, start to think, think and think, and he thought of a strategy. He invited Rabbit for a rematch. Rabbit ran like a bullet until he reached the river. He couldn’t swim! So all he could only stood there and watch Turtle slowly crawled… and swam and crawled to the finish line. Turtle too learnt from his mistake, improved his edge and has created the first aquathlon in the animal world. And so the saga continues between the two.

You see, excellence requires continuous effort to do better. Like Rabbit and Turtle, they build upon their past experience, learn from mistakes and boost their performance one step at a time.

And you can do it too. Regardless of your goal and destination, there is a tried and tested way to make cycle of improvement.  There are 4 steps –  PLAN, DO, CHECK, ACT



Plan is about knowing what you want, then plan how to get there.

When I first joined Toastmasters Club, Eng Lye told me that I need to plan in advance, because the speech slots got snatched up early. Being a greedy person, I thought, since I paid $218 per year for membership – 2 practices per year means $100 per practice, 4 practices per year means $50 per practice… 8 practices per year means ……$25 per practice! If I make 24 practices per year  then it will be peanuts!!!

So I planned for 1 speech a month, alternate with appointment slots. Book all the way, 6 months in advance. With that I completed my CTM within 1 year.

Is it possible to achieve our goal without planning? It is still possible, but it is leaving things to chance. If I do my speech depending on mood, then I may not have the mood, or when I have the mood but Susi has no slots, or before I have the mood, my wife ask me out for movie. Success becomes then a random affair.

Plan for it if you truly want success. Don’t leave things to chance.


Next step is do.  It is about bringing what is on your mind, and on paper, into the reality.   Just like this paper airplane in my hand, can it be created if no one does the folding? 

Can there be a swimmer, who has never done the swimming? Or  a good trainer who has never done the training?  Or a successful farmer, who has never done the farming?

The turtle carried out his strategy, making it a reality and out-matched Rabbit. He tasted victory.

Likewise, you can also carry out your plan, and achieve success.

Reserving speech slots without actually doing the speech will not bring you anywhere. We need to prepare, rehearse, and deliver the speech. We need to grow from the tears, toil and sweat. We need to overcome the fear by  facing the fear straight on. If there is no doing, there is no progress, and there will be no fruit.


After doing, it will be time to check the results.  What was done right? What was done wrong? Are you on-track? It is we, looking at ourselves in the mirror.

In Toastmasters club, you could receive feedback from evaluator, the feedback form and we can also ask our peers for their comments. 

At work, you can look at the Key Performance Indicators.  You can ask the subject matters experts for opinions. Or you can also ask your boss, customers, participants for feedback. 

There are always ways to find out how well we are doing.

Seek and you will find; ask and you will get; measure and you will know the figure.


After knowing, it is time for action. It will be your choice, of whether you want to make changes to improve, or you want to stay status quo.

In the Toastmasters arena, there are Toastmasters who always speak at the same level of proficiency, repeating the same mistakes. And there are those who take each feedback seriously and you notice progress at each project. It is a personal choice.

If progress is what you want, then identify the problem or the weakness, and set-out to plan for change.  If vocal variety is the issue, practice on the voice – there are many resources out there that teach you how to do it.

The cycle of improvement continues in a PDCA fashion, creating a spiral of progress until you arrive at your destination.


Plan-Do-Check-Act is the formula for cycle of improvement which Rabbit and Turtle applied in their competition to great effect. Successful companies like Toyota, Honda and many others use it to improve their performance. And you too, can apply in your personal life, in toastmasters at work to realize success.  Is there a goal that you want to achieve?

Go ahead! Use Plan-Do-Check-Act to help you  build excellence through cycle of improvement


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