Don’t Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good
I learned a lot, and quickly, when I started working on political campaigns. This was pre-digital Wesley but I was an analog perfectionist. Got cured of that fast. You can keep re-editing a TV spot, rewriting a speech, redesigning a direct mail piece; and three weeks after the election announce that it’s perfect.
Not every single thing you’re working on is destined to become the Mona Lisa or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. That doesn’t mean you should do things poorly. I’ve trained myself over the years—and my staff is talented enough—to do work well, strategically and quickly.
Businesses can learn from this:
Campaign managers ask one question: Will this action get me closer to winning, or not? If it gets you closer to your goal, it’s good enough. That’s it. No need to overthink or overproduce.
In your business, you encounter these same decisions daily. Hourly maybe. Your gut should tell you, or your direct reports should, or research or something should—that it’s time to approve this and move on. Budget, plan for entering a new market, product or package design, meeting materials; if you have solid people working with you and there is a solid reason for a project in the first place, trust them and yourself enough to say, “Go.”
Yes, there are certain things you need to spend an overabundance of time on—could be a merger or acquisition, the location of a new facility, a regulatory filing or anything involving lawyers (sorry!). Fair enough. You know the difference. Remember the campaign manager question above, applied to business: will this action get me closer to my goal, or not? If yes, then it’s good.
Your time is also worth money. If you’re spending it reviewing Revision #58, something’s wrong. In the words of my trusted confidant Jonathan Williams: Fix it.
And in 2017, you don’t have the luxury of being a perfectionist. Speed doesn’t permit it. News, social platforms all just move too fast…public opinion can be set while you’re trying to make shit perfect. So don’t.