Practice makes perfect… but perfection is the enemy of progress

Jim Ilievski

CKI Group chief executive Jim Ilievski.

‘Practice makes perfect.’ How many times have you heard this saying?

The truth is, yes, practice does make perfect. But why do you have to be perfect?

What will being perfect achieve? What is your definition of perfect? What is the perfect job? What is the perfect life? I could go on and on.

The reality is, we paint our own picture of perfect, be it through our own biases or by trying to follow other examples of what we believe perfect is.

However, by blindly pursuing perfection, what we are doing is not being responsive or adaptive.

The ideal of perfection locks us into a way of thinking that closes down our capacity to move and change. Fixated on perfection, we end up ignoring other perspectives and excluding data that doesn’t fit with our ‘perfect’ vision.

Imagine not delivering a project until it was perfect. Some projects would still be going 10 years later (if not forever).

Imagine toiling away at what you believe is the perfect product to find someone has launched something similar and cornered the market.

In the pursuit of perfection, we move project milestones or amend the scope and raise change requests to cater to the variation and inevitably delay the project. We lose momentum and quite often incur financial costs. Often, we frustrate those around us, including colleagues, key stakeholders and even clients.

In business, if you delay one second, you might have missed an opportunity.

The idea of perfection is a luxury in business. Websites are a great example of this. Some organisations refuse to put anything up on the internet because they don’t think their website is perfect, not realising that so many leads and opportunities pass them by as they fuss and finesse.

Being responsive and adaptive does not mean you produce bad work or settle for low-quality service or release shoddy products.

What it means is you find the right balance between all key elements.

Doing a great job in a timely manner, while understanding there will always be improvements to be made. Staying open to the possibilities of disruption. Understanding the world is a complex place and that your best-laid plans may come undone.

So how do we move beyond the perfection myth and embrace the achievable reality of constant improvement?

How to move beyond perfection

1. Establish perimeters and parameters with your customers.

This will allow you to better navigate through the ‘progress and perfection’ paradigm by clearly setting boundaries and limits to a project.

Communicate this framework to everyone involved in a project.

Doing this will ensure there is buy-in from all concerned and a wall is built around the project right from the start, ensuring you don’t get expensive and wasteful project sprawl.

Keep it tight and focused.

2. Use benchmarking, or best practices, as a tool to inform your project frameworks.

These are not always 100% perfect but will guide you in allowing progress and improvements to be made based on a robust, proven method.

You work towards the goal of constant and attainable improvement rather than chasing the elusive dream of perfection.

Think about the standards you want to achieve and define the targets you want to hit.

Aim high but keep it realistic.

3. Most of all, walk these journeys with your client and all of your key stakeholders.

At the end of the day what they see as great progress is the closest you will get to perfect.

Clients love to see that you’re trying your best to produce an outstanding product or service, but very few want to go along for the ride chasing an elusive dream of perfection.

Stay customer-focused and work to get the very best results for them.

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