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Don’t Let Perfection Get In the Way of Progress

By Steve Kane Updated on October 5th, 2022

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 perfection get in the way of progress”

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.

  1. Mark Boland

    July 6, 2020 - 7:22 am

    Hey Steve, This was a nice read and i really like the idea of going fo rthe quick wins to have that impact for the team. Everyone love a success story and seeing an initiative working.

    • Steve Kane

      August 31, 2020 - 8:47 am

      Thanks very much, Mark.

  2. Tim Gallagher

    August 29, 2020 - 10:54 am

    How’re ya Steve
    You said in your article “this is nothing new”, that’s exactly the point; when we lose sight of the fundamentals is where we tend to fall down. 👍

    • Steve Kane

      August 31, 2020 - 8:55 am

      Thanks, Tim. Yes, even world class athletes continue to practice the fundamentals of their sport. I’ve heard of an olympic coach saying that the difference between a champion and marginal athlete is that a champion is able to endure the drudgery of practicing the fundamentals over and over, day in, day out.

  3. Tawanna

    December 12, 2020 - 2:33 pm

    Very well said. I love the fact of learning lean practice. Lean was just recent brought to my attention.. But by me looking at it and learning it on a everyday basic, lean is something we really need. I’m looking forward to know more about it.

  4. April Bailey

    January 25, 2021 - 11:51 am

    I really like everything you said. I especially like the process of the little wins that lead to the larger successes. I am becoming a quick believer in the journey

  5. Ann Hamon

    January 27, 2021 - 4:48 am

    I like the little wins comments. Also, I have heard practice make perfect. Looking forward to learn more.

  6. Jason Woodruff

    May 12, 2021 - 4:15 pm

    “Lean is a practice” well said.. it is also a journey that is always striving for the best way but still knowing there is always a better way. I believe this is why I truly enjoy this process of Lean. Like anything we do in our life “practice” daily practice of anything will always make us better. Creating those daily habits that set ourselves up for success while never stopping to improve our self. I am also learning that Lean can not only be used at work but in our personal lives as well..,.

  7. Knakita Simmons

    November 18, 2022 - 5:53 am

    Very well said. I have learn more about Lean and understanding what is Lean in the course. I do believe that practice is the best way to success. The more you do it the better you become.

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