Sometimes Good is Good Enough

by Dan Hutson on March 15, 2009

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photo by Mirko Macari

“Good is the enemy of great.” That’s the first line of Jim Collins’ outstanding Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t.

The simple explanation why we don’t have more great organizations—whether they be schools, government or companies—is that it’s easy to achieve (and settle for) being pretty good. Being great is hard work, and most of us don’t have the time, energy or discipline to get there.

I’m a big fan of Collins and believe we’d have more great organizations if more leaders would actually apply the lessons of Good to Great rather than simply talk about it. But being great and being perfect aren’t the same thing.

My own little philosophy, learned from bitter experience, is that “Perfection is the enemy of finishing anything.”

I think I have a strength that can easily veer into weakness. I have a tendency to think, analyze, think some more, write, rewrite, edit what I’ve rewritten, do a little more research … I think it’s made me a better writer, but it can also unduly delay me in finishing a project. Hard deadlines are great because they eventually force you to call it a day.

The time you spend crafting the perfect communication is time you’re not communicating. You can take comfort in the fact that if you don’t get it just right this time around, there will be many more opportunities to do it better down the line. Communication is a process. Sometimes you’ll get it right, other times not so much.

Whatever your communication goal, make sure you don’t let the work get in the way of delivering your message. Good may be the enemy of great, but good is frequently good enough.

P.S. If you’re in the nonprofit world, check out Collins’ monograph
on applying the principles of Good to Great to the social sector. It’s a quick read and well worth the time.