Perfect at the Cost of Timely

perfection costs
How much opportunity and time are you wasting trying to be perfect?

When I look at much of the work I do, I can always see more that can be done. There is more that can be added to a system, a speech or a marketing strategy. But is it necessary?

I see this fundamental business decision range widely with business people. They are shooting for perfection so they don’t launch for a long time, or perhaps, ever.

This doesn’t apply to everything, but for most efforts based in practicality, pursuing perfection has a high cost. Your first version may receive criticism, but that is what is necessary to refine what you work on to get to something better over time.

The process of iteration, is a great strategy today because things we are using today have a quick half-life. They are not as useful or glamorous three months or a year later. Things are changing around us that we have to adapt to and change with.

That is the beauty of thinking in terms of timeliness. Timely delivery meets a need. It gets you out there and a commitment starts to happen. Then there is the feedback loop which is ever so valuable to refine and create a better direction or design. The marketplace today moves fast and using that kind of speed to your advantage can be a major asset in launching, refining and relaunching your ideas.

Furthermore, it’s cheaper. You are not guessing on what is perfect. That last ounce of painful minutiae can suck cycles out of you.

Putting yourself out there and allowing customers and pundits alike to experience what you are doing helps to create more clarity on what has to happen next.

On Iteration

I am a big fan of iteration. It is the natural way I work. I expect to fail fast and I am not afraid of it. I realize that is not for everyone. But it is a highly strategic secret I have.

I have enough experience to trust the methodology. I realize perfection happens over many cycles, not one. The first cycle takes a big chunk out of the pursuit, but there is a diminishing return. That last 5% of perfection costs 95% of the energy.

This is where splitting the artist from the businessperson has to be ruthless.

You can see this principle in the business call of a new software release or new published content. There can be revisions on the next go around. It’s costly to keep working in a vacuum trying to make things perfect.

That’s because you might end up focused on things that matter very little to your audience or customer base but that you are intimate with. Your perspective is far different when you are too close.

Iteration allows you to continually test and integrate changes as you go along. You are dialing in what matters and managing the emotion, frustration and expectations along the way while you get perfect.

Furthermore, it is more motivating. You get small wins rather than put all your eggs in one basket hoping for a big payoff.

If you catch yourself in a spiral, how about breaking up your approach and iterate instead? Trade perfect for timely. See what happens and free yourself from the tyranny of perfection. It hardly ever comes anyways. But usefulness and delight are always within your grasp.

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