In Change, Leaders

“The fact that you can only do a little is no excuse for doing nothing.” – John le Carre

Perfection is a fantastic-sounding goal.  Who wouldn’t want a perfect business, or a perfect career, or a perfect life?  When we stare out the window and dream, we don’t dream about internal personnel conflicts, or customer complaints, or cash shortages.  Our dreams are full of things going just the way we want them to, regardless of the situation.

That, of course, is generally not how life works.  Aiming for perfection is a great idea – expecting it is unrealistic.  The world is populated by human beings, none of whom are perfect.  Even our best intentions get derailed by our own missteps, or those of others, or events we have no control over.  That’s just the way things are.

That said, the fact that we are unlikely to achieve perfection doesn’t mean we should just sit there.  I’ve heard a lot of leaders talking about a lot of different topics over the past year who’ve said something to the effect of, “Well, we can’t control X, so we might as well not even bother.”  That’s a horrible attitude.

We rarely can control 100% of a situation, or even close to that.  And it’s really tough to fix 100% of a problem.  But if you could make your situation 25% better than it is now, isn’t that a big improvement?  Or 20%?  Or even 10%?  And what if you made your situation 10% better, and then did it again next year, and again the next year, and on and on?  Think how much of an impact you could have.

I think part of the problem is that when we’re faced with a challenge, we want there to be one big fix that we can implement with guaranteed success, and then we never have to deal with that challenge again.  There is rarely one big fix, it’s almost never a guaranteed success, and chances are we’ll have to deal with that same challenge again.

So change your mindset.  Stop looking for the one, giant, perfect solution.  I don’t mean you should stop paying attention to what’s going on around you – there’s always the possibility that the perfect solution may appear.  But in the meantime, think about improvement as an ongoing journey.  Bite off a chunk and take care of that.  Then another.  Then another.  Change is a continuous process, and it’s time to get started.

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  • Chris Mason

    One of the key constructs of being agile is what is termed minimum viable product. In practical terms it means, get it 80% right and go! Don’t wait, you can improve it on the run based on customer feedback, timely article Matt.

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