I had a note in my "to blog" file to talk about a recent client conversation but was having some difficulty finding the "hook." A post on one of the Fast Company blogs provided it for me. From the post...
Michael J. Fox once said, "I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's business."
Religion aside, the quote nicely summarizes by client experience.
The conversation I had with the client lasted an hour. During that hour I suggested no less than six (6) different reward and recognition strategies, approaches, tactics, ideas. Each one different than the last. I didn't want to do it, but I was prompted by the client to keep talking about different ways to influence the behavior of their target audience to achieve a specific short-term sales goal.
The client kept asking, "is there any other way?" The client kept wanting to know which of the six would give him the biggest bang for the buck. The client wanted the "perfect" program. The funny part for me is that he's talking to someone who had probably designed more successful programs in the last two years than he will in his entire career. Yet, he was determining based on our one hour conversation which he liked and didn't like - with a limited idea of what would work and what wouldn't.
Every idea I threw out to him had worked in one environment or another. So in effect he was choosing between six successful approaches yet was still looking for the "perfect" solution.
After an hour he asked, "heck, you're the expert, what should I do?" I reiterated the first solution I offered at the beginning of the call. I'm still waiting to hear if that is the approach we will take.
Going back to the Micheal J. Fox quote from the beginning of this post - perfection isn't in our grasp - excellence is. And I believe excellence comes from practice. No different than Tiger Woods on the golf course - he takes a swing based on historical results, adjusts based on the outcome, swings again, adjusts again, etc. Not unlike my recent post on OODA loops.
I think this "perfection" mindset comes from the "old days" when it was very expensive and time consuming to launch a marketing program and therefore you only got one shot at success - so you spent an inordinate amount of time discussing and tweaking before launch. However, today we have the ability to launch, adjust, relaunch, ad infinitum - with much less cost and time.
Shooting for perfection doesn't make sense in today's light-speed marketplace.
I've heard that best is the enemy of better. I agree. Sometimes an 80% solution is better than no solution.
My one caveat on all of this - any solution will be a failure in the long run if you don't learn, adjust, change, measure and react.
The next time you're looking to put a program or initiative in place - focus on what you know, develop a strategy that can move toward the results you want, and know going it it isn't perfect - but one of your objectives should be to strive for excellence. Measure, discuss, experiment.
Don't go in search of perfection - be happy with a search for excellence.
UPDATE: January 23, 2008 at 4:54 p.m.
From Seth Godin's post today....
Here's what we used to do:
Create ---> Edit ---> Launch
Here's what happens now:
Create ---> Launch ---> Edit ---> Launch ---> repeat
That's what I was trying to say....