Sunday, August 23, 2009

Embracing the far from perfect

The quest for perfection ... it's a journey I've often been on. Perhaps it's rooted in my print journalism background, where one character out of place was the greatest of all sins. Hence, my eyes have been trained to notice the details. Or perhaps it's related to my need to please. In work, I've always wanted to delight clients, bosses and colleagues with extraordinary work. To disappoint would have been utter failure.
But HBR's Why Doing Things Half Right Gives You the Best Results offers freedom for those of us who have been trapped in perfectionism. The author, Peter Bregman, relates lessons he's learned in creating organizational solutions and leading change. What he found is that if he creates things that are imperfect and then asks stakeholders "Why won't this work for you?", obstacle after obstacle is unearthed. When he follows up with "How can you change it so it will work?", the ideas for improvement start flowing. 
To pursue a "perfect" result assumes that we think we have all the answers. It may be our version of perfect, but it may not be the most effective for everyone else. Moreover, a near-perfect prototype shuts out other stakeholders from providing valuable input. Flaws are not as noticeable, and stakeholders may be more hesitant to contradict what has clearly taken significant time to create. The less our goal is to "wow" others with our ideas but rather to do what is best for the organization, the more willing we'll be to let go of our quest for perfection.
So, as I move forward in pursuing a career in talent management consulting, I think a new tactic is in order. It's clear that perfectionism won't work for me any longer. As I create human capital solutions for workplace performance, I'm aiming for half-right. 

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