I was meeting with a prospective client recently and said those four key words to her, “In order to achieve your objectives, we need to PURSUE EXCELLENCE NOT PERFECTION.” After I said it, she looked at me, stood up and said, “Can you please excuse me for a minute?” Two minutes later she returned with the CEO and the three of us proceeded to have an engaging 90-minute discussion on how we could improve the performance of their people and their organization.
When we pursue excellence, we reward improvement. We provide a clear road map for people to follow. We achieve incremental successes. And we are always able to redefine what excellence means and set new expectations.
When we pursue perfection, we don’t reward improvement. We only reward perfection. What if it’s never achieved? There are only two possible outcomes when you strive for perfection: Success or failure. There is no middle ground. And unfortunately most organizations that strive for perfection, fail. And even though improvements have been made, they are not celebrated, because perfection was not achieved.
The next time that organization set expectations, people are wary and gun shy because they remember the last time the organization failed. I had a client who told me that her Board of Directors still reviews a specific failed project at every meeting. The problem is that the project failed FIVE YEARS AGO!!! And they are still dwelling on it. Why would anyone want to propose any new project if that is the way failure is treated?
Are you pursuing excellence and setting your organization up for success and improvement, or perfection and setting it up for failure?