This is a continuation of our discussion on sufficing and optimizing.

Under certain circumstances, each of us will be pushed by an impulse to seek “perfection” in the creation of some output.

The desire to create something that is perfect may be noble, but it’s — when (precisely) the urge arises, that needs to be considered.

Behind that urge to perfection, sometimes a cover story lurks, or a distracting but seemingly noble imperative takes us away from completion of an output… because… because … because…

Now there are some blessed or beknighted souls for whom the search for perfection is more than a preference.

Their raison d’être is the attempt to perfectly translate something from their inner world – an idea, a concept, an image, etc. or a value, standard, or belief into the shared world of experience.

They might be an artist or designer; an architect or a novelist; a parent or teacher.

Examples are strewn across society. Certain artists are renowned for their particularity as well as, perhaps, eccentricities: Nothing is right when something is not “as it should be”.

The strict pastor or harsh parent “laying down the law” like an old fire and brimstone preacher, with many a “NOT IN THIS HOUSE!” shaking the rafters.

The novelist who can’t finish a novel because he or she doesn’t want to let go of the characters yet. The list of possibilities is inexhaustible.

But… the search for perfection in expression or output needs to be tempered with regards to the world, and how our various outputs enter it.

There are times when despite one’s best efforts, all plans and schemes are upset.

This is when resilience and creativity and “back up plans” are tested sometimes to their limits.

Holding criteria too tightly during such times can lead to defeat snatched from the jaws of a possible victory despite the adversity.

The adjustment of criteria is really about “for whose benefit” and “in which functions” are a new arrangement serving?

When forced by circumstance to adjust: Who will you be serving with the adjustments?

In any business that serves people by performing functions – whether those are services like plumbing, general construction, or interior decorating; or legal services, consultancy, accounting, etc. – common sense and best practice (and often legal statute) dictate that protecting the client’s best interests and contracted arrangements are top-line considerations.

But even there where the criteria and perspectives are obvious and even legally binding, when someone clings to an internal need for perfection that affects the client outcome – there will be tears before bedtime.

When a seeming desire for perfection takes precedence over all other factors; one needs to investigate.

Whether you are a validated, recognized and celebrated genius like Leonardo Da Vinci (who left a trail of projects unfinished because he abandoned them when he realized he could not concretely manifest them perfectly… and lost many patrons as a consequence), or you are just someone with “high standards”, or you seem to spontaneously become a seeker of perfection as deadlines draw near… you are certainly in the grip of a habituated idea (the ideal of perfection); which while having historical precedence, and has produced extraordinary works of science, art and culture – you are most likely using that search (or… thrashing around) as an excuse or cover story for something else.

Perhaps it’s about ego and needing to be praised more; perhaps mommy or daddy were disappointed with their little prince or princess… sorry… where were we? Ah! Cover stories…

The balance between output, deadlines and qualities is ancient… and a fine line to walk… BUT when “perfection” or even just “I can do better than that” takes the place of outputs and hitting targets; you need to take a look a:

  • How you assess and set criteria for projects, goals and tasks in the first place.
  • Are your expectations habitually too high or optimistic?
  • Required resource picture incomplete (not deep enough to mise en place)?
  • Too quick to agree for wanting to please?
  • Not sufficiently integrated into larger picture of commitments and agreements?
  • Not sufficiently “risk assessed”? (we’re coming to this in a future episode.)

Your workflow

  • Is your workflow sufficiently optimized? (eliminating wasted time and effort)?
  • Is there enough output demonstrated “work” in your work-time?
  • Have you actively considered the adjustments required to your workflow for a new project?
  • Is your week and day plan sufficiently broken down, resourced, and mise en place’d, or are you “winging it” too often? (“Yeah, I can do this in my head” has led many a man and woman to perdition).
  • Do you have a sufficient “lag planning” within your workflow – time set aside for unexpected arising’s, calls for your attention, etc. that distract from your main output-focused activities?

Your “second test” practice

  • The second test answers the question: “Is this complete? Is it finished?” and it is the moment when release of an output may occur, or when it will be re-worked, amended, added to, etc.
  • Do you typically add to criteria at the end of a process, or impose greater requirements at the point of “just about out the door”?
  • If there are consistent flaws in your work at that stage; it means you have either a planning problem (insufficient depth of thinking and specifying outputs; lack of detailed resource thinking and acquisition, etc.), or preparation issue (inadequate mise en place, etc.), or your workflow needs refinement.
  • Instead of SUDDENLY becoming the chief quality inspector and finding flaw at the moment a work is about to go out the door; as chief inspector you need to look further back in the production process and make your quality adjustments there.

Find your “perfection” moments… when output is exchanged for “perfection”.

Look back at HOW you managed to allow things to get to the point where an output CANNOT be released, due to its flaws.

The answer LIES in the cover story; but the truth LIVES in the processes you run.

Look into how you did it… change your crazy ways… and you’ll be more perfect that way…

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