Pursuing Perfection? Why bother?

Pursuing perfection? Why bother when good enough will do?

Now those of you who have been reading this blog for a while might think, wait – doesn’t this contradict a prior blog I wrote last year? To some degree it does but there’s an important distinction between a business that’s good enough and a deliverable that’s good enough. It’s here that I’m talking about the latter.  A business that’s satisfied with being ho-hum will eventually be squeezed. But a business that is focused on world domination, sometimes has to settle with delivering product that’s just good enough.

Take this blog for example. If I were to focus on writing an absolute masterpiece, let’s face it – it would never post. I would deliberate for days on end and probably can the thing when it was all said and done. When Apple developed the iPhone I have to believe they knew of the connectivity issue that got so much press earlier this year. But even with that flaw, was it good enough to launch? Steve certainly thought so. And most iPhone users I know say that it was, if for no other reason than they don’t normally use it as a “phone”.

As a colleague of mine points out, sometimes being good enough vs perfect can make or break your first mover advantage. So as you deliberate the minute details of your new new thing… ask yourself if waiting to get it just right will make it the old new thing.

More than that, I believe most of us just need to get better at executing. It’s easy to criticize and agonize and idea-ate but it takes a whole different skill set to deliver, or as Seth Godin says, to just “ship” it.

Learn to deliver, learn to fail and then learn to do it again.

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  1. #1 by Ramiro Roman on September 23, 2010 - 7:22 am

    MM- I would agree with your post… there’s also a strong believe among my peers that a decent strategy flawless executed is better than a great strategy poorly executed… obviously both great strategy & execution would be ideal, but if you have to sacrifice something, it cannot be the execution.

  2. #2 by Sam Kale on September 23, 2010 - 11:37 am

    I think you’re walking a fine line here. Sometimes its better to ship, sometimes its better to delay. The delineating factor, at least in my mind, is your ability to iterate – slow iteration process, you need more care and thoughtfulness; fast iteration and you can play it a bit looser. Or to your examples, the iPhone perhaps needed a bit more thought and work, while web apps like Google or Twitter can be iterated every hour or day.

    To Ramiro’s point, I’d also add an element of iteration, as I think flawless execution can only be flawless if you’re willing – and able – to iterate your tactical execution as you go. Especially in today’s world where things change incredibly quickly (READ: Credit Crisis of ’08) we need to be able to respond, evaluate, and adjust as quickly as possible.

    • #3 by Kris Kaneta on September 23, 2010 - 2:32 pm

      Sam – Don’t disagree with what you’re saying. There’s a definite difference b/w good enough and a failure of a product. Also, like your insights on iteration. The ability (or lack thereof) should definitely influence at what point you’re comfortable going for it.

  3. #4 by fartheroutnearerto on October 19, 2010 - 3:22 pm

    I know we work in pretty different fields, but something about what you’re saying really resonates with what we do in my environment, too. I agree with Sam that there always has to be a dynamic tension between excellence and execution, but I also agree with you that if we lose that tension and fall too far to the excellence side we might lose our window of opportunity. In my field as well as yours, those windows open and close really quickly. I don’t know if this applies everywhere, but for me, the minimum standard for execution is whether or not putting whatever it is out there allows us enough quality to use it to develop the situation further. Does it get us in the game, whatever the game is, to allow us a foothold that we can develop into something bigger? Bad stuff is bad stuff, but “unfinished” or “developing” is not necessarily the same things as “bad stuff” is it?

    If we keep waiting until we have the ideal product or position, we may miss our moment to get in it at all. A question I need to keep asking myself before putting something out there is, “By putting this out there now in the state that it is in in order to take advantage of timing, will we be hurt by the unfinished quality more than helped by the timing, and will it be of a high enough quality to allow us to keep it in the game while developing it further?” Just some thoughts. I love this blog, BTW. I learn something immediately applicable every time I read it. Thanks for putting it out there and letting schmucks like me chime in from time to time!

    • #5 by Kris Kaneta on October 19, 2010 - 4:17 pm

      Thank you for the kind words. You are of course welcome to read / share anytime – that’s what it’s hear for. Of course I feel like sort of a hypocrite as it’s been almost a month since I last posted waiting for the “right topic”. That aside, you’re right when you say sometimes getting in the game is what’s important. Figuring out how to play and/or win can sometimes wait. After all if you’re not in the game to begin with, a brilliant strategy is (to quote Rowan Atkinson) about as useful as a one-legged man in a ass-kicking contest.

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