Striving for Perfection

I recently read an interesting comment on the pursuit of perfection:

The amount of effort required to bring something from “good enough” to “perfect” is rarely worth it.

My initial reaction to this, as well as the reaction of most people I repeated this to, was that clearly the author doesn’t take pride in a perfect piece of work. Reflection, though, indicates something a little different.

Define the term “good enough”.

For me, that may translate to one level of quality, to you, another. That level of quality that you consider to be “good enough” is what you should be striving for. That is, it should meet all the needs of the work being done, and leave you with some level of satisfaction that you have done a good job.

However, perfect is not subjective. Perfect means that an objective assessment of the work would conclude that there is nothing lacking in the job. While there are certainly jobs where the the subjective assessments need to come close to perfect (for example, safety procedures at a nuclear powerplant), most jobs do not. There is some degree of quality that is subjectively required.

The amount of work to bring a project from good enough to perfect will often far out-weigh all other effort for the project, though the benefits can rarely justify it. For my clients, they expect a certain level of quality. I do my best to exceed that expectation by producing something better for them. However, I rarely insist on perfection, because my clients in general don’t want to pay for that.

They want to pay for a certain level of quality, and that’s good enough for them. For personal and professional reasons, I do my best to exceed that level. However, perfection will rarely make a difference.

It should be noted that if working harder on a project to produce a better outcome would have a tangible difference, then the definition of good enough may need to be adjusted. But that’s just subjective.