Masters Alliance Right vs. Perfect: Does the Pursuit of Perfection Put Blinders on Your Team?

Right vs. Perfect:
Does the Pursuit of Perfection Put Blinders on Your Team?

by J Allen | Originally Published Oct. 25, 2016

I may be about to shock you and you might even accuse me of business heresy!  I’ll give you the bottom line at the top of the page: Perfection doesn’t matter if you never get it done. Don’t let Perfect get in the way of Right.  To us, the evidence is clear: attentive, knowledgeable, committed people get things done quickly with a high degree of excellence, doing it “right.” They are the “right vs. perfect” high performers!

Does Your Organization Get Things Done?

For the past 30 years, Masters Alliance has helped business leaders across the globe get better results by helping them gain a competitive advantage. When we meet with leaders, we start with diagnostic conversations – asking them questions like: “Are you really world class high performers?”, “What’s preventing you from this high-performance level?” and “What are your greatest obstacles to achieving high performance?” Once all the niceties and standard answers are pushed out of the way, we start digging into the “why” of the issue. And a very common response to the third, fourth or fifth “why?” is – because they get too little done, can’t get things done quickly, or the stuff they get done is no longer on the cutting edge.

Leaders call out the names of Quality and Perfection as the drivers of why they must go slow to bring things to market. And then we pop the radical question: “Why obsess with perfection, when Right will get you to market faster, excite customers. When Right will gain a competitive advantage?” Everything they have learned in a Lean Six Sigma, Quality and ISO world has driven leaders towards Perfect. The anguish of perfection seems to appear when our conscientious pursuit of excellence gets crossed with our natural aptitude and the inherent desire to be perfect.

Freedom to Get Things Done

The concept of “right vs. perfect” is very freeing. It is one that concentrates the pressure on those things that are needed by

those who most need them. It focuses on the recipient of the effort, the consumers of the output, and the delight of the end-users…not varying theoretical opinions of perfection. The result?  Greater creativity and innovation, additional successful outcomes, more gratification…and considerably less frustration.  And yes, finally “right vs. perfect” gets things done faster, better and “more perfect” for those who count most. It is the common-sense approach to excellence.

Leaders have no idea of the blinders they put on their organization when they mandate “Perfection” in their companies without balance of real customer desires and aggressive timeliness. They have no understanding that a blanket investment in restrictive quality standards could lead to behaviors that would dull their competitive edge. Leaders have forgotten what it is like to deliver a product that thrilled their clients, but made their engineers grumble and their lawyers step up the “approval pace.”

We think it’s time to re-examine the business case for having a right vs. perfect culture. Here are some insights into what that might look like.

Right vs. Perfect IS About…

  • getting things done, trying / testing things, taking controllable risks, overcoming fears …taking action.
  • a willingness to notice things that are opportunities for improvement without the burdensome constraints of “too much work”, “too much trouble”, “too many approvals” …and going ahead anyway, providing leadership.
  • putting aside fears of “looking stupid”, “being disrespected”, “being resented” for “unnecessarily stirring up things best left alone” …and getting it done anyway.
  • considering / relating to other’s views of “why doesn’t someone do something about that”, “there has to be a better way,” “why doesn’t anyone care about this” …as a rally cry.
  • doing something, engaging those who are noticing opportunities into a force for change; remembering that they notice because they care about something, are dissatisfied about something – and have not yet, or recently experienced the excitement, joy and satisfaction of successfully “making something better” …making it happen.

Right vs. Perfect is NOT About…

  • Lowering standards
  • Forgetting to strive for the best
  • Eliminating the quest for perfection where needed [pharmacies, OR’s, aerospace, etc.]
  • Discrediting:
    • Continuous Improvement, ISO, Quality, Malcolm Baldridge Quality Award, 6 Sigma
    • Time for innovation, Next Generation, Progress, Advancement, Raising the Bar
    • Good – Better – Best, Upgrades, High Standards, DIRTFT [dirtfoot]…do it right the first time

Right vs. Perfect is about trusting others to know what needs to be done, how to do it well and how to make the results scalable and sustainable…getting things done, trying / testing things, taking controllable risks, overcoming fears, taking action…that’s the “Right” part of Right vs. Perfect. Don’t believe it’s possible? To have a more engaged team, happier customers and a faster speed to market? Here’s a story of how a company applied some Right vs. Perfect principles and still maintained quality in their process.

Client Example

Situation: AlliedSignal Aerospace need for both “perfection” and on-time-delivery

Jack, the President, knew his organization needed to break through to a new performance level to maintain its competitive leadership position.  A dramatic improvement in on-time delivery was needed while maintaining the “perfect” quality required in certain parts of the aerospace industry.

  • A 7,500-employee organization with an industry-leading 92% on-time delivery rate over the previous 20 years utilizing 112,000 individual parts in this extremely complex aerospace effort. 3 million square foot factory under one roof.  6 international unions. History of high-performance, excellence and leadership.
  • The senior management team agreed to bet its entire bonus on achievement of three “gold rings” …in only 6 months! Next levels of management, 170 supervisors, over 800 engineers, scientists and other professional specialties became engaged.
  • Next, every hourly employee was also engaged in large meetings and breakout groups to identify what individual and group goals could be accomplished. Jack agreed to kiss a duck if the company gold rings were achieved…primarily focused on 100% on-time delivery.
  • A “barrier removal war room” was established with a meeting every Tuesday afternoon at 4:00…inviting any employee or manager to come to the room, have some pizza and offer a barrier they had attempted to remove and needed senior management assistance to remove it. The first few weeks, the line was down the hall and around the corner and the meetings went into the evening.
  • An 1-800 extension was also set up for call-in requests. The senior management group became the “barrier remover squad” with a promise to respond in 24 hours to all requests…rotating responsibilities each day.
  • After a while, the supervisors, managers and VP’s learned to listen better and remove barriers before they gained executive attention.
  • 6 months later – on-time delivery was at 99.89% and sustained above 99% for the following years.  Now we all know that quick on-time delivery turnaround can be achieved with increased costs, reduced quality and increased scrap…but this organization did it with reduced quality exceptions and reduced scrap and with no increase in hours!
  • At an all-hands results celebration, Jack did indeed kiss a duck near the back-end. An hourly union employee addressed an auditorium of several hundred people, “I may get in a lot of trouble, but now that I am listened to and allowed to make improvements, I never want to work any other way.”

What You Can Do…

Right vs. Perfect…is about getting things done, trying / testing things, taking controllable risks, overcoming fears, taking action…leadership at all organization levels!  Are you interested in making this happen? I sure hope so!  Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  1. Does your organization have a good understanding of the company’s customers and their needs?
  2. Do groups offer solutions that anticipate or create customer needs?
  3. Do you as a leader encourage disruptive innovation? Do other leaders?
  4. Do you or others overly obsess with perfection in your ideation or implementation processes?
  5. Does your organization exhibit a bias for action, a sense of urgency, quickly getting offerings to market?

We Can Help

Want a more engaged employee and customer base? Want to shed the burden of perfection when it’s not required? If you do, Masters Alliance can help you see how a “right vs. perfect” approach to building a competitive advantage can work for your organization.

We can help bring these tips to life with your organization – providing the tools and framework to help your team think and lead differently. We’ve helped dozens of our clients implement this new way of leading their organizations.

Learn more about where your organization stands.  Master’s Alliance has two simple assessment tools:

  1. Test your team on the Masters Alliance “Get Things Done Barometer”
  2. Test your organization on the Masters Alliance “Improvement Urgency Scale. Consider this idea: Your teams are engaged and want to deliver great customer service, but YOU / your leaders might be stopping it from happening…causing others to hesitate rather than act!

Masters Alliance is a 30-year strategic management consulting firm that has helped more than 120 client organizations in over 20 industries in 13 countries gain a competitive advantage in their market. We help organizations develop and implement unique business strategies that work – faster than our clients ever thought possible.

We help clients achieve significant performance gains from a breakthrough understanding of their customers / patients / clients and markets.

To privately start this revealing assessment process, give J. Allen a call at 952-831-7300, or send us an email.