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Shoveling snow does not require perfection.

Updated: Jan 28


Last week, the birds were chirping in my yard to signal spring was in the air. The season’s snow had melted and signaled the yard work in the flowerbeds. Excited and eager to embrace the change in the seasons, we surprisingly had another snowstorm with approximately 8 inches in less than 24 hours. Not a legendary storm, but not a gentle dusting. However, it required a clean-up. As I was shoveling, hoping it would be the last of the season, I thought about what was good enough


What is good enough?


When shoveling snow, I was contemplating what is considered good enough. In a few days, I could receive free snow removal by Mother Nature, LLC. When done, should I salt? Shoveling the snow one shovel at a time, I thought about who would benefit from my shoveling. I would require quality at a level that allows 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 enough? 


How good should you shovel snow?


The engineer in me looks at the small ice patches in the corner, itching to address them. But I fought the urge, knowing that perfection in this example is wasted energy. Perfection is the enemy of good enough. I even looked at the angle that I took on the driveway, seeing a non-squared corner mating up with the perpendicular sidewalk. Avoiding making eye contact with the blemish, I walked away in a state of good enough. 

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. We should not encourage a lazy approach by any means. This is not to say we will succeed by only making a good product. Instead, we must strive to develop the standards and expectations for a standard and produce these expectations until this good is no longer good enough.


Make to the standard


Dr. W. Edward Deming would refer to the quality of a product or service as how well it helps someone else perform their task and how well it supports the 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 and the visual aesthetics that appear 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 the level of service. 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





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