Perfection, Excellence or Good Enough?

What standard do you normally shoot for? And what standard do you normally require from your employees (or vendors or outsourcers)? Do you expect Perfection? Excellence? Or are you content with “Good enough”?

It’s an important question to ask and answer because how you answer that question will have a direct bearing on the success of your business (or organization or department or team)—and the speed at which you’ll succeed.

The Problem with Perfection

For example, if perfection is your standard/goal, then the probability of executing any idea quickly is non-existent. Perfectionists rarely get anything out the door quickly. Why? Because they have to go back over and over whatever they’ve decided (once they’ve decided) to make sure it’s perfect.

However, because perfection doesn’t exist this side of heaven, nothing gets done. Marketing campaigns never get launched. Products never get released. Books never get published. Events never happen. Rehearsals never end. Jobs don’t get filled. And no one is really happy.

My guess is that, if perfection is your standard, you can probably look back over the past few years and see idea after idea that either didn’t get executed on—or got executed on too late to take advantage of the opening that was there in your market.

“The greatest enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect one.” — Von Clausewitz

Though Lexus may argue that they’re in “the relentless pursuit of perfection,” all you need to do is read automobile forums to realize that they haven’t quite attained it yet. Nor has anyone else.

Note: One of the problems with our current shift to a global economy is that there is a tendency for a lot of business leaders to now compare themselves to others on a global (vs. local) scale. What that means is that, instead of releasing a product or service that could make a difference now in their local market, a lot of leaders will hold back on releasing a product or service until it’s  better than what anyone else on planet earth is currently offering. Bad decision. However, this is a derivative result from the desire to pursue perfection.

So are you a perfectionist? And if so, how has that negatively affected you and your business? What hasn’t been accomplished because you’re waiting for “it” to be perfect?

The Excellence Difference

On the other hand, excellence is a more attainable standard. I like to define excellence as

Doing the best you can with what you have in the amount of time you have to do it.

In other words, excellence is not static. There’s no one set standard called, “excellence.”

  • What is excellent for one person, isn’t for another.
  • What is excellent at one point in someone’s career, isn’t at another.
  • What is excellent for someone with lots of resources, isn’t for someone who doesn’t have many resources.
  • What is excellent for someone who has a month to work on something is not the same as someone who has six hours to do the same project.

Excellence is variable. However, it is necessary for success. Why? Because people (customers, employees, vendors, bosses, board members, prospects, leads, etc.) are all moved by it. They can smell it. They’re inspired by it. And it creates movement.

When you or your people provide excellent service, customers become repeat customers and tell others about you. When your marketing team sends out an excellently designed and worded marketing piece sales go up. When your training session is done with excellence, your employees catch on and implement what they just learned.

At every level, excellence matters.

However, the downside of excellence is that it can be confused with perfection and cause analysis paralysis. When leaders forget that excellence is about doing the best they can with what they have in THE AMOUNT OF TIME THEY HAVE TO DO IT, excellence can become an impediment to success.

So are you an excellence junkie? Do you confuse excellence and perfection at times? And how would your employees answer those last two questions?

“If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work.” — Thomas J. Watson

The “Good Enough” Standard

The final option is the “good enough” standard. The “good enough” leader is the leader who just wants to get stuff done. An idea arises. The “good enough” leader makes sure it gets executed quickly. And before you know it, the idea is out in the world.

Now, the positive part about the “good enough” leader is that money tends to follow speed. The business that is first to market, usually wins. As you’ll see in my upcoming book on Breaking Through Plateaus, the number one driver of fast growth companies is, “Speed of Implementation.”

So the good news about the “good enough” standard is that more ideas get executed. However, the bad news is that the “good enough” standard doesn’t inspire. It doesn’t create “raving fans.” It doesn’t create movement. And, in fact, it can have a negative effect on the people you want to influence.

For example, when you go out to eat and the food is just “good enough,” do you return to the same restaurant? Hopefully, your answer is “No!” Even worse, chances are high you’ll tell your friends and acquaintances , “Don’t go there.”

So putting products, services, events, communications, etc. out there into the world when they’re just “good enough,” can be an impediment to success.

In light of all this, what should your standard be if you want to create a wildly successful business? Here’s what I’d recommend.

  1. Ruthlessly eliminate all forms of perfection from yourself and your people. Perfection isn’t just unattainable, it’s an impediment to success. When you see it in your people (or yourself) eradicate it. Don’t tolerate it!
  2. Make excellence your standard whenever you’re sending anything out into the world (remembering that excellence has variability built into it). Don’t wait for perfection.
  3. Make “good enough” your standard for getting ideas into the testing phase. Don’t even worry about excellence as it’ll hinder getting prototypes out into the hands of customers.

So, how are you and your business doing? Are you being held back by perfectionistic tendencies? Are you allowing analysis paralysis to keep you from getting things out into the world? Are you content with “good enough” when your market wants excellence?

If you want to build a bigger, better, faster and more profitable business, make sure follow the guidelines above!

To your accelerated success!