Stardards Are Agreed and Repeatable.
When I was in publishing, I spent a lot of time with editors, designers, marketers, sales reps, finance folks, and C-Suite executives. Each of them had different goals for success. Each had different ideas of what drives a successful business. Almost all of them wanted to do a great job for the company and for themselves.
But young product designers and builders that I worked with often had unrealistic aspirations and goals. They set a standard for the products they worked on. Their standard was that the products be perfect.
A standard is an agreed, repeatable way of doing something.
Perfect isn’t a standard. Perfect isn’t a repeatable way of doing anything.
Just as important, they would have been hard pressed to get the rest of the company to agree to their definition of perfect.
That idea of a perfect product worked against them.
What Is Perfect?
Those designers desperately would explain how to design the perfect product. Meanwhile, the sales reps, finance folks, and C-Suite executives each had their own definition of what perfect means in that context.
Perfect is in the eye of the beholder —
- to the product builders — a writer, editor, illustrator, coder, programmer — a perfect product is structurally sound, without error, and elegant
- to the designers a perfect product is aesthetically pleasing, easy to use, elegant
- to the marketers a perfect product is new, compelling, and innovative
- to the sales reps the perfect product is one that sells and stays sold
- to the finance folks, a perfect product sells and makes money at the same time
- to the C-Suite executives a perfect product seems to be one that does all of those things
- to the only ones who count — the customers — a perfect product meets their needs, makes their lives easier, faster/simpler, or more meaningful.
Clearly the idea of perfect wasn’t the same from one team to another. Perfection is experience and perception, not a standard.
BigStock: What is perfect?
What Is Perfect in Business Thinking?
A quest for perfect is unattainable. What perfect judge would decide when we’ve succeeded?
The stress of perfection makes us less human. Our flaws and foibles, expertise and experience round out our thinking and define our appeal as unique beings. Perfect in business thinking is both strong with vulnerable. It takes wonderfully imperfect humans to truly connect a business to its customers.
It doesn’t matter whether our offer is a product or a service. If we focus on the work, it’s easy to forget the people. Yet, we’re do the work to attract, connect with, and serve people. Solid business thinking defines perfect work by how well it delivers value.
We can build in shiny bells and whistles that we decide will make our work perfect. If the folks we’re serving don’t see, need, or want the noisemakers we’ve built in, we’re not adding value. We’re adding cost — our time and energy to build them, their time and energy to avoid and ignore the ringing and whistling. (Unless they miss them completely, which is benign, but still a drain on our resources.
There’s no such thing as a perfect product. Even if we could achieve one, I’d go for the a product that attracts, delights, and serves customers. If a product serves the customer exactly as the customer wants and needs it to … To me that is perfect in business thinking.
When the next project comes — or even as your move forward on this one — here are a few imperfect suggestions that will get you closer to perfectly satisfying those customers …
- Unravel any rigid definitions of a perfect outcome to make room for new thinking. Don’t confuse wrong and different.
- Remember that perfect isn’t about you. Don’t define what’s perfect for customers. Let them tell you.
- Ask questions. Ask the people you serve to describe their “perfect” outcome. Do this before, during, and after a project. Do it often when you’ve encountered a problem.
- As you gather information from the people you serve, use it to set a true standard. Then live UP to it. An agreed upon, repeatable, and predictable standard makes business easier, faster, and more meaningful.
- Pay attention and keep tweaking until you’ve aligned your goals with your customers. Do more of what works. Stop what doesn’t.
Don’t try for perfect work. Like the young product builders and designers, any definition of perfect work will be flawed if leaves out customers. Perfect work in business thinking is outcomes and solutions that fit your customers’ needs as they see them. Show up consistently with generosity and your best reasoning. Be outstanding at seeing, hearing, and responding to people.
Make things easier, simpler, and more meaningful. Your work will be better than perfect. It will be irresistible.
And that’s perfectly appealing.
What’s your definition of perfect in business thinking?
–ME “Liz” Strauss