perfection is the enemy of progress

This story starts with a small group of people that wanted to make a difference.  I love stories like that.

The group gathered together to discuss the state of disrepair that one of our city parking lots was in.  The idea, as the discussion began, was to get a group of volunteers together to re-paint the lines of the parking lot, do some landscaping, and spruce it up.  It was a small project, but the group was excited to see what could be done.

In the course of the conversation, however, someone said those 12 words that can be the death of many projects.  This phrase often kills progress before it even starts.

“If we are going to do it, we should do it right.”

These 12 words can be the death of progress.  “Wait,” you might be thinking.  “We should do it right.”  I get that.  As a matter of fact, I am sure that I have said these 12 words.  It’s worth mentioning that this phrase is always used with the best of intentions.  It is brought up because we all want to do the best job we possibly can.  And that’s the rub.

The reason this phrase is deadly is because it sounds right.  Of course we should “do it right!”  Who can argue with that?  But who gets to decide what is right?

To find out, let’s get back to the story.

Once the deadly phrase was uttered, the conversation started to spiral.  If they were “going to do it right,” then the parking lot should really be re-paved first.  The problem, of course, was money.  The city probably did not have the funds to pave this parking lot.  There were more important roads that needed that attention.  And, to be honest, this kind of project probably need contractors to be involved.  If we do that, then we will need permits.  All of this means more money.  So we should probably look into a grant that can help us pave parking lots.

The spiral was complete.  The group left the parking lot.  Nothing had been accomplished.

And that’s why that phrase is deadly.  Perfection is the enemy of progress.

The idea was to simply improve the parking lot.  But with the best of intentions, the group got in their own way.  So instead of a small step forward…nothing was done.  Luckily this is not the end of this story.

A few weeks later, a few of the members of the group broached the topic of the parking lot again.  They decided to scrap the idea of “it has to be done the right way.”  They wanted progress…not perfection.

Within a week, a date had been set and volunteers has been asked.  The city donated the paint and a few employees to help paint the lines.  On that Saturday, over a dozen county residents, from many different organizations came by to lend a hand.  And within 2 1/2 hours, the parking lot looked much better.  Much better.

perfection is the enemy of progress

You might be thinking “So what?  It’s just a parking lot.”

And that is true.  It was a simple project.  But it was progress.  And what I have found, in nearly any endeavor, progress creates more progress.  This is the kind of project that shows that a small group can make a difference.  And when people realize that, they often want to do more.  Within a month of this project, the group came together to finish this parking lot and complete another in the downtown area.

This is not just a fun story.  It’s also a metaphor about how we often get in our own way.  We talk ourselves out of doing things in our own business or our own life because, “if we are going to do it, we should do it right.”  We think and overanalyze and end up doing nothing.  We talk ourselves out of making progress…because we have perfect in the way.

Remember…perfection is the enemy of progress.  Good luck making progress today.

Kirby Hasseman is the CEO of Hasseman Marketing, a full service marketing agency located in Ohio.  Learn more about Hasseman Marketing here.  And if you are interested in have him speak at your next event, you can learn more here.

Oh…and Kirby is involved in the 3 For 3 Initiative in Coshocton County.  To learn more about that or to get involved head to Facebook here.

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