The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good – Find the Right Balance

Voltaire’s “The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good” fits perfectly into the operational life of many midmarket executives. Guy Kawasaki’s blog post ‘A Dozen Don’ts for Entrepreneurs’ also reminds us that perfection is an allusion. Ed Calabrese, a friend and colleague, had a saying when we were building software apps (back in the old days). Ed would say “shoot the engineer and ship the product”.

So the balancing act we engage when we have to release a product or publish a report or post a blog or wrap up a presentation is “what is the right balance”? When do we know we are done?

Folklore has it that an intern working for Henry Kissinger gave him a report and asked the Secretary of State to review the document. A week later, Kissinger gave it back and said “you can do better”. Another week passed and the intern gave the report back to Kissinger with a comment indicating the report was much better. Kissinger gave the report back a week later with the comment that ‘I still think you can do better’. So the intern put his very best work into the report and a week later gave it to Kissinger saying “this is the best I can do”. Kissinger said “thanks, I’ll read it now”.

Somewhere between Guy Kawasaki’s “Don’t worry, be crappy” and Ed Calabrese’s “shoot the engineer and ship the product” and Henry Kissinger’s painfully long review cycle is the answer.

I’m leaning towards Guy and Ed.

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