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Dec 05 2017
When Good Enough is Good Enough

This blog post assumes you know about The Performance Chain.  If you don't, check it out for a minute. You'll get it.

I was cleaning up my sink after preparing a delicious dinner of vegan pizza.  I noticed that I was doing a fine job, but not the compulsively shiny job that I sometimes do when I want every single kitchen implement in place. We all have things like that, I suspect – where we might take pride in doing a superb job and produce a "work output" that surpasses all expectations, just for the sake of it. Or, as in an operating room, where we need to be very careful about our work outputs. But there are a lot of other areas in our lives where good enough is good enough. That is, we just need to finish the task to produce the work output that meets some minimal standards, or criteria for "good."

In Performance Thinking® programs we make a big deal of the discussion about criteria for "good" work outputs. They are specific, easy-to-agree upon characteristics of the work output that make it good. We can measure by counting good ones and not-good ones.

Getting clear with stakeholders about "what good looks like" can cut through all kinds of unintended problems in personal relationships, in management, and across whole organizations. That's what we call Box 1 – Expectations & Feedback.

In some situations and jobs, it's very important to meet  high standards for work outputs, and even to continue increasing standards for "good" e.g., in funding or hiring decisions, in business analyses, in proposals, in software designs, in working relationships. To produce some work outputs, people need to behave in precisely defined ways to produce the outputs to meet very exacting criteria, as in a nuclear submarine where a lot is at stake.

In other areas the criteria for "good" might not pose such a high bar, as in some marketing and sales situations where "just showing up" at the right place at the right time is about all you need to accomplish, and the rest will take care of itself. 

One of the benefits of our emphasizing that stakeholders agree on criteria for "good" is not only that it helps us set levels of excellence we need in some areas with exacting standards. It also frees us up to be less precise and sometimes quicker when criteria for a "good" work output need not be quite so precise e.g., for stacked logs of firewood, 5 feet tall that won't fall down. Not too complicated.

In any case, "good enough IS good enough," as long as we specify in advance what we mean by "good." 

In my view, the second most important thing in the Performance Thinking® process and logic, after identifying work outputs that contribute to organizatonal or societal results, is to identify the criteria for those work outputs that we consider "good."  With that done, we're halfway there.

 They don't call it Box 1 for nothing!


- Carl Binder



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