How the Pursuit of Perfection Can Damage A Business

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On September 12, 2019

Pursuit of perfection

Execution: The Pursuit of Perfection In Business

Is the Pursuit of Perfection a Bad Thing?

For years, Lexus has identified their brand with the tagline: “The relentless pursuit of perfection.” It’s been a tremendous tagline that captures the automaker’s commitment to quality. Potential purchasers know that when they buy a Lexus the makers of the car have paid close attention to all the details. But nobody thinks they will get a perfect car. In fact, there are times when the pursuit of perfection can kill a scale-up.

Should You Settle for “Good Enough?

If you’re responsible for a growing business, should you settle for “good enough” when it comes to how your company executes? We’ve all heard the admonition that good is the enemy of great. Companies (and individuals) who settle for “good enough” don’t stand out in the marketplace. There is, however, a difference between striving for excellence (and continual improvement) and insisting on perfection.

An Example from a Reformed Perfectionist

Steve Jobs is often regarded as somewhat of a secular saint among those who transformed a company and even an entire industry (despite his well-documented shortcomings). Jeff Harden, Contributing Editor of Inc. explored Jobs’ struggle with perfectionism not long ago. Here’s one excerpt that captures the crux of the issue:

Steve Jobs, Apple’s late, lamented leader, was once an adamant perfectionist. His obsession with detail, however, meant that the company took more than three years to develop the original Macintosh.

Jobs managed to temper his perfectionism as time progressed and hire people he trusted. This helped Apple to become more capable of tackling the mass market and less of a niche product company.

Steve Jobs never abandoned the idea of excellence. But he had to realize that pursuing perfection was actually keeping Apple from fulfilling their potential.

Excellent Execution Remains Essential

As a business coach, I’ve written many times about how the importance of excellent execution is undeniable. It’s important that you clearly define your processes and that you track and evaluate your level of execution. As a business leader, however, you have to guard yourself against the temptation of achieving perfection. Insisting on perfection (which, of course, is impossible) will put incredible strain on your people, on your workflow, and even on your sales. You won’t be able to grow your company if you insist that everything runs perfectly.

That doesn’t mean you don’t set high standards. It doesn’t mean that you don’t put structures and procedures in place to ensure performance. It doesn’t mean that you stop getting better and better at what you do. There is always room for improvement when it comes to execution. There may be a fine line between excellence and perfection, but the distinction is important.

Is Your Execution Excellent?

How is your company doing in the area of execution? Nobody is perfect, but are you taking the appropriate steps to get better all the time?

I invite you to click on the Execution Assessment button here to take a two-minute assessment that will give you a bird’s eye view of your execution capabilities.