Don’t Let the Perfect Get In the Way of the Good

Kane (1)
Steve Kane, Director of Customer Success

By Steve Kane

You may have noticed that Ron, Kevin, Jon, and I contribute to the Gemba Academy blog on a rotating schedule.  My articles are posted the third Friday of each month.   For the next several months I’ll use this schedule to highlight best practices from the Gemba Academy community.

The Gemba Academy team is in a great position to interact with many lean practitioners around the world.  With a thousand or so subscribing organizations and presumably hundreds of thousands of Gemba Academy users, we’re able to see common traits and characteristics that lead to lean success.

I’ll start this series off with a great piece of advice we see put to use quite often:

“Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.”

Lean is about small, incremental improvements by everyone every day.  A small step toward the goal is success.  Burdening ourselves with the desire to be perfect in a single attempt sets us up for disappointment.

A best practice we often see is lean practitioners accepting the fact that they might never reach their ideal state, but work toward it anyway.  They work every day to simply be better than the day before.  Every incremental improvement is an achievement worth celebrating.

At the same time, good isn’t good enough.  It’s just a step to prepare you for the next step.  PDCA.

I realize that this is nothing new.  Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of fundamentals. 

Here are some ideas on how to work this into your daily practice.

  • Knowing the direction of your target, destination, or ideal state (however you choose to describe it) is more important than knowing how you’ll reach it.  Move every day toward your goal and you’ll quickly figure out your next steps and how to negotiate your obstacles.
  • Inaction is the only real failure.  Any attempt to improve will lead to discovery, then to learning, then to improvement.  Take a step in any direction and you will soon find your way.  Steps that take you farther away from your goal will quickly become apparent.  PDCA to get back on track.  Just keep moving.
  • Go for quick wins and celebrate them.  A few months from now there will be hundreds of small accomplishments that will have a big impact on the organization.
  • Lean is a practice, not a project.  It never ends.  In those moments you feel like your journey of a thousand miles is leading you nowhere, take a moment to reflect on where you’ve been.  You’ve probably achieved much more than you realize.
  • Those who are persistent about continuous improvement tend to be successful.

Accept the fact that you will likely never achieve perfection.  The pursuit of perfection is success.