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In Search of Perfection; at the Risk of Action

Great teams excel at pivoting - if you've built an environment that encourages questioning

Perfect is the enemy of good. This idea is an easy sell, in concept. It's not worth spending the time to achieve perfection (which may be unattainable) when you have a perfectly good solution now. It's about diminishing returns. But do you put this into practice?

It's a good question to ask yourself at your next team meeting--especially as it's hitting the two-hour mark. Are we letting perfect be the enemy of good i.e. are we spinning our wheels on perfecting a concept or idea when we have an 80 percent solution that we can move on right now?

If the fear is that the answer isn't good enough: play it out. If we don't act and continue to brainstorm/ideate/ponder until we have the perfect answer, what's the cost of that delay? And if we do act on this 80 percent solution, what's the cost of that decision? Sometimes, it will make sense to wait for the perfect solution. Many times, it will not.

And here's where the value of true teamwork comes in. If, for example, you act on the 80 percent solution, chances are the team will figure out before too long if the idea can be improved in some tangible way. Great teams excel at pivoting. Great companies excel at pivoting. It's part of their DNA to discuss and raise questions and concerns along the way.

Work groups, or "teams" that don't share a basis of trustand conflict, will have trouble improving on ideas along the way. Chances are, several people on the team will have great ideas. Heck, they'll even be talking about it them in the halls after meetings, displaying a straightforward lack of commitment. But they won't bring their ideas to the table.

Sometimes it's simply a chicken/egg problem. Can the leadership trust that this team will figure out what's best as they go along? Will the team step into that void if allowed? Will they be punished if they air ideas that are not perfect? Or even good?

A leader's job is build an environment that entices employees to ask the "What ifs." If that's not happening on your team, hunker down for some long meetings in search of perfection.

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Last updated: Aug 13, 2014

KRISTINE KERN | Principal consultant, the Table Group

Kristine Kern is a principal consultant with the Table Group, a firm founded by Patrick Lencioni. She works with executive teams to help them achieve organizational health and increase productivity. kristine.kern@tablegroupconsulting.com




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