Perfection is the Enemy of Progress

Yesterday was a tough weather day. Here in Northern Indiana we are experiencing extreme snow and drifting.  2014 Dogwood Snow v2I had to blow snow off the driveway so I could just get to the street.  Then the journey started. Here’s a picture of my road to work, down to one lane with snowdrifts all over the place.  As I was driving, hitting snow banks and spinning out, weirdly enough it reminded of the business technology roadmaps we put together for clients.  They are not perfect like the road, but it certainly is a good path for companies to follow to keep making progress and moving forward.  This reminded me of a couple of things that I frequently share with clients and friends.  I encourage them not to stop their momentum, but rather make the best decisions they can at that moment.

The first reminder is about progress.  When I see someone experiencing the ole paralysis by analysis, I pull the “perfection is the enemy of progress” card out.  Sometimes I write it on a 3×5 card so they can use it to remind themselves.  This is especially true with technology because it moves way too fast to have a perfect plan.

The best plans to have are:

  • 90 Day Plan – action items by week and targets for the quarter
  • 1  Year Plan – this includes business strategy and targets
  • 3 Year Outlook – really for budgeting as that is typical cycle for servers, workstations, licensing, etc.
  • 10 Year Simple Long Term Vision – this is the leaders responsibility for where the company is going.

As you can see from the above plans, after 1 year, the technology plan tends to get fuzzy.  Even when I do a whiteboard strategy session the most I can see is 2 years out because technology shifts are happening really fast.  So doing the 1 Year Plan and backing into the Quarterly Plan will keep the ball moving forward.  We call these business and technology roadmaps so everyone knows what is going to change and when.

The best example of a simple long-term vision is Microsoft from Bill Gates.  It was “a computer on every desk and in every home”.  Well they recently had to change that because that is exactly what happened.  Success of a simple long-term vision attained!

I want to reiterate that you do NEED a real strategy. If it doesn’t pass the 2 points below you don’t have a strategy:

  • What you’re planning to do actually matters to your existing and potential customers
  • It differentiates you from your competition

The second reminder is about quality.  Now the paradox is that making the best quality decisions may not be perfect for the sake of progress.  This happens all the time with services and products.  Was Windows the best when it was first released? Heck no!  Did they capture the market share? Heck yes!  That is an example of how the 90-day plan and the long-term vision play well together.

I was recently doing a whiteboard session for a financial institution, which had challenges with too many applications, lack of integration, and data duplication everywhere.  Plus, they wanted to move quickly.  I put this diagram on the whiteboard and said you can only pick 2.Cheap-Fast-Good-Venn-Diagram

Now various forms of the Good – Cheap – Fast diagram have been around for a while, but we need to remind ourselves of this against the objective we are trying to accomplish.

  • Good and Fast – Not Cheap
  • Fast and Cheap – Not Good
  • Good and Cheap – Not Fast


You can also use this with your kids when they go to college.THE-COLLEGE-TRIANGLE

Perfection is a great thing but is only accomplished by a very few (and often is not worth the cost).  It’s more important to have a long-term vision that your team knows and values.  The whole 90-day action plan with specific goals keeps the ball moving forward.  I started daily huddle rhythm meetings with my team at 8:08 just to keep us in sync and so we only get off track for 24 hours at the most.  I got this from the book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits (link), which I highly recommend. It is an excellent book on strategy and execution.


  • Read Mastering the Rockefeller Habits
  • Do the 1-year strategic plan (from the book)
  • Start Daily Huddle/Rhythm Meetings with your team
  • Break your strategy into a 90 Day Plan, 1 Year Plan and Simple Long Term Vision
  • Do a whiteboard business and technology strategy session
    • Hire a facilitator as that is hard to do with someone on the team

“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” ~ George S. Patton

Make the best decision you can today and be agile with change.  “Alignment of the team is the most important thing as when everyone knows the targets, change and resets motivate rather than deflate.” ~ Craig Sroda

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

2 thoughts on “Perfection is the Enemy of Progress

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