At every level of any business organization you will encounter people who believe in perfection, and will often transfer that misguided notion to anyone unfortunate enough to work under them.
Why, you might be wanting to ask me (perhaps with a smack to my head) would I consider the quest for perfection in a business environment to be misguided?
Well, for starters, we live in a perfectly unperfect world. I just made every perfectionist linguist in the multiverse squall in horror as they prat on about “unperfect” not being a word – and yet it succeeded perfectly in conveying the idea of imperfection.
We live in a world ruled by an acceptable margin of error.
Bah, you say, give me some examples.
Let’s look at any round table found in a business – probably in the break or lunch room. What is the circumference of that table? I do not want a guess, I want good mathematics. Fine, you might grumble, breaking out your smartphone and researching circumference where you will find a simple formula — oddly enough, just like the one below:
C = π(d) (circumference equals the value of pi times diameter).
We can measure the diameter of the table and get an accurate number. Let’s say 4 feet. We are now at the stage of using the equation as C = 3.1459 times 4.
This yields a usable number for the circumference that works in most human situations.
But it is reliably not perfect. How can it be – the value of pi is not a definitive number. The value of pi never ends. Therefore, the circumference is not perfect and to say you have in your possession a “perfect” circle is horse dookey. Pretty sure that’s not a word either…
Moving on. How about this example? You are in the break room sitting at an unperfect round table. You are sitting with two of your associates. You have an apple and want to distribute the apple equally to yourself and your two associates. They each get a third. 33.33% Well, actually 33.333333… percent. Adding the three pieces together yields 99.9999… percent. Where the H-E-double toothpicks does the rest of the apple go?
Think GPS. Yeah, it’s accurate. To within 12 to 45 feet. Not bad for the city, but maybe a tad iffy on the rim of the Grand Canyon…
An acceptable margin of error is inherent in human life. The truly successful business person (at any level of a company) understands this and their value to themselves and the company is in being able to identify, establish and maintain that acceptable margin of error.
Striving for perfection is, therefore, fruitless, pointless, counter-intuitive and – ultimately – will lead to disaster because an acceptable margin of error must be properly acknowledged and built into the company structure.
The key, then, is not trying to achieve perfection, but grasping what the upward and downward limits are on that perfection as an expression of human effort.
Thus ends this perfectly acceptable rant on the topic.