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Perfect is the Enemy of Done

Written by Mike Paton on July 20, 2015

Implementers EOS Leadership Organization Team Vision

Perfect is the enemy of done 2Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take." Having spent more than 1,000 days in the trenches with entrepreneurs and their leadership teams, I can safely say that quotation applies just as well to business as it does to sports. Because when it comes to making decisions, calling things “done”, and launching important work—leaders and teams fall into three camps.

The Three Camps of Leaders and Teams

The ideal, of course, is “Ready, Aim, Fire." In Gretzky’s terms, this describes a team that runs its offense (or follows its process), creates just the right opportunity, and then takes a shot. Unfortunately very few teams are able to go from “idea” to “complete” having done just the right amount of research, planning and testing to get things just right, every single time. But it’s the ideal.

Next best is “Ready, Fire, Aim.” In hockey, this is what a coach means when he says between periods, “We have to do a better job of firing the puck towards the net, testing the goalkeeper, and hope things bounce the right way.” This approach describes a lot of successful entrepreneurs who know that speed to market and an ability to try lots of things, improve them over time, and occasionally fail faster than the competition often leads to a preferred position in the marketplace.

The worst option is, “Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim…” If you never decide, if you’re never satisfied that your work is done, if you never launch, you’ll never score, and you’ll never win. Worse yet, you’ll never even know whether or not the thing you’re thinking about or working on is a winner or a loser. You’ll be left standing still, wondering, tweaking, perfecting something that will never be perfect, and will likely never be launched.

In Truth, the Search For Perfection Is a Death Trap

Seth Godin calls it “the ideal defense mechanism…the lizard brain giving you an out. Perfect lets you stall, ask more questions, do more reviews, dumb it down, safe it up and generally avoid doing anything that might fail (or anything important).”

So, if you’re skating in circles with your puck, waiting for the ice to clear and the goal to be wide open—that will NEVER happen. There’s nothing wrong with research and preparation and analysis, but at some point you’ve got to take a shot. Please. You may score, and you may win the game. Even if you don’t, you’ll likely learn something that increases the chance you’ll shoot and score the next time you have the opportunity.

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