The 92% Solution

Some people are perfectionist. They have to work to get every project on their "to do" list to 100%. When my wife and I managed out bakery business, Ra El would repackage the brownies I wrapped by hand because they weren't perfect. It is part of her DNA.  Even today, she reloads the dishwasher after I load it because she is confident the dishes will get cleaner based on her method.  Of course, she is right and the dishes do come out cleaner.

But what about going for perfection at work? When you do your job in your small to mid-sized business, do you find yourself redoing the work of others or striving for a 100% level of achievement? I have a different approach. I call it the 92% solution.

As I recall, you can earn an A grade in school if you get a 92 on a test. The incremental 8 points to get you to a perfect score is wonderful but can you afford that level of perfect on every single item on your to do list? It’s a standard that causes many people to work too much on achieving an extra 8 points equally on all projects. I don’t work this way. I think it aligns with the thinking of MVP (minimum viable product) as articulated by Eric Ries. Sometimes fast trumps perfect. Sometimes perfect isn’t.

Like you, I have a to do list of things that need to get done. But out of everything I am working on, perhaps one or two activities require a dedication to 100%. In order to FOCUS on those few items, I have to allow 92% to be my goal for the rest of my list. (the B and C level projects). If I tried for 100% on everything, I’d probably never do the spectacular job needed on the top priorities.

Employees or direct reports learn this lesson from me quickly. I want them to pick one or two major projects and to do an “over the top” job on those activity that we agree will move the business forward. They require more time, more diligence and more follow through. If everything on their list is attempting to be at 100%, you know that nothing will get to that level.

Imagine being at a dinner party with 10 people. I would prefer to spend almost all my time conversing with one person in depth, than with all 9 people.  Diluting my time and trying to deeply get to know everyone is unrealistic and less productive. Perfection has its place but I’d rather be an A student who accomplishes my top goals even if the majority of activities aren’t perfect.

Ask yourself these three questions?

  1. Have you been unsuccessful at getting the big project perfect because of all the attention you pay to the smaller activities?
  2. Would I be rewarded at work if that one critically important project is perfect and everything else was done well with room for slight improvement?
  3. Is the stress involved in perfection your only option or can you allow yourself to be an A student/worker/entrepreneur with a 92% average versus 100% average?

Focusing on the perfection only makes sense when it is concentrated on one or two mission critical activities.  Congratulations. You have received straight A’s and your GPA is 92.

Do you agree with this approach that 100% on everything means you aren't focused on the mission critical work? Please comment.

Notes: If you enjoy my posts, would you share it with your marketing friends? And check out my new book on Amazon. At $2.99 it is a great value. 21 useful lessons based on my marketing experiences. A paperback version will be published in a few weeks for those who like to hold a book in their hands. - 

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