The last 10% makes all the difference

It just so happens that this is the right time to give my 14-year-old son the “last 10% speech.”  Anyone who’s been around a young teenager knows, they simply don’t understand what it means to get something done…completely done, leaving no strings, or mess left over. As your children learn to be responsible, and even begin to do their chores, and even help others (wow!), there is still one last instruction to give.

It is that no matter how much the 14-year-old thinks he has done, what matters is that he has finished the job.  Or better yet, that he has solved or performed a task to his parent’s liking. The only thing parents see is the last 10 percent of the effort.  For example, he may have gotten his own juice glass then the juice from the refrigerator, poured it, drank it, returned the juice to the fridge, and walked away, quite proud of himself.  The parent sees the glass left on the counter.  Just a few years ago, we’d have been proud of the accomplishment of self-service, but now it’s the last 10 percent that’s missing – put the glass in the dishwasher.

I’m blessed to have a great job where I can participate across several division or departmental projects.  The common element of my cross-business unit work is the ability to provide projects some small element which is needed to move it towards sales.  This small element has been along all stages, from an idea which can start a project, to a customer contact, to a production trial.  Cross-business unit efforts should not be a burden; it is by definition, a breakthrough, some added value which makes our progress toward innovation and sales revenue easier.  Remember that 90 percent of the project and resources are already there!  Each of our businesses has talented sales, marketing, production, technical and supply chain folks ready to do their jobs.  This is the basis for any of our cross-business unit projects; if one person can add that last 10 percent, we need to get 100 percent of our value then it is worth our effort.

Customers see Celanese products the way a parent sees things.  Even though we may have done a lot of work and spent years perfecting an engineered resin, talked about it internally, and had consultants provide years of experience to a new product, none of it matters until the customer deems it valuable — all of it, not just 90 percent of the value, but 100 percent.

The successful teams I work with across Celanese are focused on making that customer satisfied.  Knowing this may mean accepting help from a “new guy” or doing things a little different.  It’s not enough to send average products to customers. Worthy collaboration includes teams who are happy to take whatever input they get to help Celanese finish the job right. Celebrating valuable input, no matter where it comes from, and truly taking joy in making our customers happy.

It’s a great feeling when a parent commends their maturing child with “job well done.” We collaborate at Celanese across businesses to hear a customer tell us: “Thanks, now let’s talk about this other problem we’re trying to solve. I think you guys can help me.”

While the last 10 percent of any job is the hardest part, it also leads to the greatest satisfaction.  I continue to look forward to getting it done right – together!

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About the author


Harrie works for Emulsion Polymers divisions New Business Development team. He is based at Clear Lake in the Technical Center in the Houston, TX area. He enjoys volunteering for his church in their hospital ministry, biking, jogging, cooking and spending time with his wife and two children.

There are 13 comments. Add yours.

  1. Shelli Lee says:

    Wonderful & thought provoking blog Harrie. I admire your keen skill to generate big ideas, and focus teams on what matters most to our customers while balancing and delivering the highest value for Celanese. The last 10% defines the most critical piece of the equation: Driving our efforts to results!

    • Harrie Schoots says:

      thank you Shelli! The Consumer Team at Engineered Materials is a good example of folks who know how to finish a job, its been a pleasure to watch!

  2. Maria Valehrach says:

    Awesome post, Harrie!! Love the personal touch and the crucial message that followed! Well done!

  3. Phil McDivitt says:

    Harrie, great insights from a great contributor to the overall success of Celanese. Thanks for all you do in helping to unlock the potential of our businesses through collaboration.

    • Harrie Schoots says:

      your encouraging note reminds me of Part II of this blog…executives have the ability to carefully add 10% to projects with the right encouragement. Thanks Phil!

  4. Bruce Kohlsmith says:

    Harrie, great post, and completely finishing a job is valuable for all customers. I enjoy working with you and think your results oriented attitude is a great fit for any division or project at Celanese.

  5. Randall Myers says:

    Harrie, thanks for the post. Especially critical in “new/new” projects where the company is venturing outside its comfort zone!

  6. Gretchen Rosswurm says:

    Harrie, thanks for your blog, it’s a great reminder that the first 90% is the ground work for the best – the last 10%.

  7. Sushant Hegde says:

    A wonderful and a thought provoking post, Harrie!! A very relevant message for our NBD efforts.

  8. Lu Zhang says:

    well put. There have been multiple times in my career when I felt I was so close to the goal line but the last five yards seemed to take forever. But when you get the last 10%, it truely leads to great sataisfaction.

  9. Malena Vargas says:

    Thank you Harrie for your blog. It reminded me of a lesson I learned from a boss early in my professional career. He sat down with me one day to explain that he thought of tasks and projects in binary terms: 0 or 1. Done or not done. To him, “almost done” was not an option, which relates to your proposition that the last 10% makes all the difference: it does, it’s what gets a task or project to “1”.

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