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Center of Excellence

Over the past four to five years, I have stumbled upon the term “Center of Excellence” and have always wondered exactly what that meant. This usually happens, when I am talking to a prospective client and they share that they recently launched or getting ready to launch a “Center of Excellence”.

I have always found the term “Center of Excellence” to be strange and decided to find out more about it. The following, slightly edited, definition comes from Wikipedia1

A center of excellence is a team, a shared facility or an entity that provides leadership, best practices, research, support and/or training for a focus area. The focus area might be a technology a business concept (e.g. business process management), a skill or a broad area of study. A center of excellence may also be aimed at revitalizing stalled initiatives.

Within an organization, a center of excellence may refer to a group of people, a department or a shared facility. It may also be known as a competency center or a capability center. The term may also refer to a network of institutions collaborating with each other to pursue excellence in a particular area

I’m not sure about you but there are several things that bother me about this definition.

  1. Best practices — Never been one of my favorite terms. In my experience, if you are following “best practices” then you are not innovating. Is a Center of Excellence a bunch of copycats?
  2. Stalled initiatives — Our previous attempts stalled out, so if we make it a Center of Excellence that will push us over the hump. If at first, you don’t succeed, call it excellent and try again.
  3. Competency — Isn’t the first word you think of to describe a “Center of Excellence” is competent? When I think of “competent”, I think of adequate or average, and definitely not excellence.

To me, this sounds like a term Company X paid a marketing guru, a large sum of money. Then, of course, Company X’s competitors had to have their own “Center of Excellence” in order to maintain their market share. As a consumer, if you had to choose between Company X and their “Center of Excellence” or Company Y, who would you choose?

What I can’t figure out is why this CoE branding stopped there? Why not create….

  • Center of Extreme Excellence (CoEE)
  • Center of Greatness (CoG)
  • Center of Supremacy (CoS)
  • Center of Rigor and Excellence (CoRE)2
  • Center of Excellence with Extreme Prejudice (CoEwEP)

Yes, I am having a laugh at someone else’s expense. Perhaps there is a reason for a CoE that I am not aware of.

The important point is we don’t want or need an Agile Center of Excellence. Or do we?


1 Wikipedia is, of course, the central repository for all knowledge in the known universe.
2 I really think someone is missing out on this one. Can you imagine all the things we can use for marketing with CoRE? I can already envision the t-shirt.

Published inCulturePonderances

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