By Eric Lofquist
If you consult Merriam-Webster online for the definition of “perfect,” you’ll see “obsolete” mentioned three times. By this they mean mature, certain or contented. But if you look up “obsolete,” you get “no longer useful.”
The dictionary is on to something. It’s time to recognize perfection for what it really is — an unattainable or theoretical state, the impractical pursuit of which is exhausting and expensive.
What ‘perfect’ doesn’t mean
Perfect shouldn’t mean flawless. It means that a deliverable has served your customer’s purpose well. Seeking excellence is an honorable intention that should be encouraged, but perfection is a variable, client-driven standard that should be determined jointly.
Perfect is recognizing when to let something go before returns are diminished by holding out for something better that may never come. The cost of perfection paralysis includes time, money, sanity and new business.
Allowing good to be good enough is not about settling for less or lowering your standards. It’s about understanding exactly which game to bring to market and when. There is no sense in playing your “A” game when the competition can be won with “C” effort. The winningest teams reserve and deploy their valuable resources accordingly.
“C” doesn’t mean you’re average. It means meeting customer needs right at the level they’ve designated. Hitting that mark is Grade A. Exceeding expectations is a commendable objective, but overachieving by a margin too wide is pricey upfront and often unrecoverable in the end.
Over the top is too much
The trouble with going too far above and beyond is that some clients might not notice the subtleties that separate good from great from “perfect.” Those that do can get accustomed to your extra-mile efforts and eventually underappreciate them.
Once the bar has been set high, there’s less room to raise or lower it. The cost could be your reputation. The key is setting performance goals with your clients and determining the success factors to measure.
Create the right quality and value for every product and service level, and make sure the work is sustainable. Consider how soon you need to ship or execute, what that will cost and whether what your audience wants is really what it needs. Can you meet the demand? What are the upsides and downsides of delivering too fast or too slow?
Those described as perfectionists usually consider it a badge of honor. They thrive on immersing themselves into a project until everything is “just so.” They are up late, up early and up to their eyeballs in details. That can be a solo enterprise.
Perfection redefined is a team concept. If you let what works for your client work for you, you’ll be free from everything you thought really mattered, until it didn’t.
Co-owner, president and CEO
Magnus International Group Inc. is an award-winning sustainable global products company.
Eric is a regional and national EY Entrepreneur Of The Year ™ whose business has been ranked No. 1 on the Weatherhead 100.
(216) 592-8355, Ext. 223