As the economy reboots after isolation restrictions, it is time to get things moving in your business. Hopefully, you have been working hard at reviewing your business offerings and assessing as best you can the current marketplace. Some things will return to the way they were, but many things will change. People will have a different mindset for a while. Some things will be more important and others less. As you work to reposition your business for success, it is important that you are as aware as possible, but also that you are willing to try some new things.
For progress to occur, it is normal to get some things wrong
It is so important to test the market and try things. It is also important to measure the success of any new marketing campaign or product offering. With accurate data you can be clear in your mind regarding when to stop it, or when to tweak it and try again.
Testing and trying a new thing is more challenging for people with a perfectionist streak in them. I have sympathy for those who are mortified if they become aware of even one small error or a tiny thing that could have been improved in their work. Some see this as failure, rather than a learning opportunity. If this is you, you probably do wonderful work, and are a valuable contributor to those you serve. However, in this economy no one quite knows what will work. If you wait until things are clear again, you may be out of business. It is vital that you are willing to strive for progress not perfection.
Perfectionism is the enemy of progress
No-one likes to make mistakes or do shoddy work. It is good to do things with excellence. But for me excellence does not mean perfection. It means doing things as well as I can within my current limitations.
Perfectionism can cause you to lose money
A landscaping construction company was losing money. They had plenty of work, lots of new leads in the pipeline and a good team of quality tradesmen and labourers. When they analysed what was going wrong, they found the problem. Their site manager was a perfectionist. He would obsess over all the small details of finishing a job. He struggled to leave a job until everything that his trained eye noticed was completed perfectly. As he was not the business owner, he was not focused on budget.
The problem was not that the quotes were too lean. The trouble was this last phase of each job was costing the company hours of labour for no real benefit. When they trialled getting a job done quickly and to about 90% satisfaction for the site manager, the saving in labour costs was significant and profitability returned. The client was still happy as they did not have the expert eye of a highly skilled tradesperson and therefore did not see the 1%’ers that were eating up all the profits. The perfectionist site manager had to be willing to settle for what he felt was a less than perfect job. This reduced his job satisfaction. He was initially quite uncomfortable about what he felt was cutting corners. But even he realised to continue with his perfectionist approach would mean they had to make room in their quotes for the extra time, which would make them uncompetitive. He would lose his job and potentially destroy the company.
Perfectionists struggle most with disruption and change
The disruption caused by the Covid19 virus has been challenging for everyone. It feels like everything is out of order and disorganised. Which is true. But for the perfectionist this causes significant stress. Plans that were made are no longer relevant. For many this is paralysing. For some people it is very difficult to start a project without the whole plan worked out in fine detail. This slows down normal work patterns and reduces productivity.
To stop when everything was in full swing in mid-March and find that the whole economy has been disrupted by an invisible virus has been challenging. This has led many to be working from home. Some projects have been left half done with no clarity about whether a client has money or need to finish them. This unusual disruption has been especially hard for perfectionists.
The lesson of the work from home (wfh) experiment
It is fascinating to me that so many companies have been kicked into the 21st Century. We have had the technology available for work from home flexibility for several years. So many that did not allow or only reluctantly allowed the flexibility to work from home, are now suddenly very open to making this part of the new normal. This is because we had no alternative. We have trialled working from home and the consensus is that it is at least as productive as working from the office. Some people are more productive. Companies are now looking at reconfiguring their office space and their weekly schedules to allow employees to work from home most days. Work from the office days may become the exception and will be more focused on team building and project collaboration.
This whole Covid19 isolation work from home experiment could have turned out very badly. At the start there were a lot of nervous managers who were not sure if their employees would be as productive away from their watchful eyes. Mostly, the opposite has occurred. This is a great example of stepping out into new and uncertain ways of operating without time to plan and get everything right. In fact, the whole government response to Covid19 has been like this. Learning and adjusting as we go. To do nothing was not an option. Most business owners just wanted to keep their business operating. They have learned and adjusted as they went along.
The encouragement for all perfectionists
This has been a perfectionist’s nightmare scenario. However, it is what people do every day. Nothing is ever certain. Nothing works out exactly as we planned. Plans are good but they are our best guess at the time for the action we need to take. Plans need continual adjustment as we learn and respond to the events and activities of each day and week. The recent disruption has been a great reminder of how resilient and adaptable we all can be. Comfort is the enemy of innovation and change. There is great encouragement for all of us, including perfectionists, that we should strive for progress NOT perfection every day.