Last week I heard the birds chirping in my yard indicating to me that spring was in the air. All of this season’s snow had melted proclaiming the yard work needed in the flowerbeds. Excited and eager to embrace the change in the seasons, we had another snowstorm. Approximately 8 inches fell in less than 24 hours. Not a big storm, but not a gentle dusting. However, it required a clean-up. As I was out shoveling, hoping it would be the last of the season, I got to thinking about what is good enough?
When shoveling snow, I was contemplating what is considered good enough? I knew that in a few days it was going to warm up and it would be cleared by mother nature. Does this mean that salt is necessary? Shoveling the snow one shovel at a time, I thought about who benefits from my shoveling. I require a level of quality for my family to drive up the driveway and walk from the car to the back door. I need a lane for our dog to access the backyard to do his business. I also need to safely clear the steps for our mailman to walk up the front steps to place our mail in our mailbox. Does this mean I need to clean an unused area around the garage? Do I need to engineer the sidewalk in front of the house by making the snow cut perpendicular to the sidewalk? Do I need to address the snow that accumulated around the base of the garbage cans? What is considered good?
The engineer in me looks at the small ice patches in the corner, itching to address them. But I stand strong knowing that perfection in this example is wasted energy. Perfection is the enemy of good enough. I look at the angle that I took on the driveway, seeing a non-squared corner mating up with the sidewalk. Turning around as if I didn’t see it, I walk away leaving it in disrepair.
The pursuit of perfection gets in the way of the work we need to do. - Seth Godin, The Pursuit of Perfection
The goal is to make good, and not perfect. The goal is to achieve the requirements we have set and none more. Sometimes, when something is better than good the additional cost and energy applied becomes the new expected norm at the previous price. This is not to encourage a lazy approach by any means. This is not saying that we will succeed by only making a good product. This is saying that we must strive to develop the standards and expectations for what is indeed good, and produce and manage to this expectation until this good is no longer good enough. Dr. W. Edward Deming would refer to the quality of a product or service is to my mindful of how well it helps someone else perform their task and how well it supports a greater system. This sense of awareness is what is sought when producing a product or service that is good enough.
We cannot rely upon mass inspection to improve quality, though there are times when 100 percent inspection is necessary. As Harold S. Dodge said many years ago, ‘You cannot inspect quality into a product.’ The quality is there or it isn’t by the time it is inspected. W. Edwards Deming
“Good enough” in the example of my snow shoveling is to set a standard of having a safe foundation for those using the area along with the visual aesthetics that appears safe to use. I can’t do shoddy snow removal and expect to create the appearance of a safe condition along with the actual foundation of a safe condition. However, I can leave a few rounded corners and non-perpendicular edges and achieve the standard of good while remaining content with what was accomplished. With this mindset, I can move on to other things.
Someone who doesn’t want to ship their work is going to stand behind perfectionism, but perfectionism has nothing to do with perfect, and perfect doesn’t have a lot to do with quality. - Seth Godin