Why Perfectionism Will Never Let You Push that Launch Button
Perfectionism is a fallacy that leads to overplanning, procrastination and failure to launch.
Back in the day, when we were just a couple of months away from releasing the initial version of Nave, one of my teammates was delegated with the challenge of designing the User Experience of our dashboards.
While he was quietly spreading his vision, time was ticking away. He was obsessed with every single detail. The problem was that, with all the little things he was constantly tweaking, it didn’t seem that I would be seeing even the initial sketches anytime soon!
As a business owner of a startup, my only desire was to finally bring our product to see the light of day, so that the universe could start soaking up the value we had to share. As time passed, I started to feel quite uncomfortable – I didn’t even know whether we were heading in the right direction. Day by day, my teammate couldn’t showcase his work just yet, it still wasn’t perfect!
And I get it. I used to be in that same place before. The idea of providing something that was not perfect would really freak me out. I felt like it was incomplete, there were so many details that I still had to put in place. The thought that I would be delivering without adding my final polishing touches would make me jump out of my skin. I thought that everyone would agree that imperfect work is unacceptable. I was dearly wrong. And here’s why…
Perfection is impossible to achieve. If you’re driven by the motivation that the only way you would show your work to your clients is when it’s perfect, you will end up trapped in a circle that will constantly keep you from crossing the finish line.
The Flaw of Perfectionism
Where does the problem come from? When it comes to putting a new value proposition on the market, what I often see is that new businesses build their products based on assumptions, and they’re only willing to launch when the results are outstanding.
The main problem with that behavior is that when they finally launch, more often than not, they find out they’ve built the wrong thing. The best way to avoid building the wrong thing is to deliver results early and often, even though they might not be as superb as we would ideally like them to be.
We all have the exact same goal: we want to solve our customers’ problems. And if we don’t involve our clients throughout the journey, the risk of failure is significant. Collecting their feedback as we’re progressing is crucial, as this will make sure we’re building the right thing and continually adjusting our course to meet their expectations.
Striving for perfection should never be a target. If your teams are only willing to deliver their work when it’s perfect, well, you’ll never hit that launch button.
What I eventually realized over time is that being a perfectionist is totally different from having high standards and sticking to them. High standards are healthy and motivating. Perfectionism is dysfunctional, at best.
How to Break Through the Vicious Circle of Perfectionism
Perfection is an instinct that results in fundamental problems in terms of flow. Any time you spot individual team members striving for perfection, you’ve got to call it out. Perfectionism is the one thing that separates successful businesses from those that are still waiting to get something out on the market.
And there is one simple truth that can help us switch to a ‘getting things done’ mode:
Progress, not perfection!
Make progress, don’t strive for perfection. Keep your teams in a goal-oriented mindset, where you’re focused on learning and experimentation. The only way to get better and mitigate the risk of doing the wrong things is to validate your assumptions by delivering results early and often.
Let’s make this clear, I’m not saying that you should deliver poor quality results and lower your standards. What I’m telling you is to eliminate the infinite loop of tweaking, because that behavior results in procrastination and fear. It was Mr. Reid Hoffman who got it right when he said:
Product and Business Strategist
"If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you have launched too late!"
If you want to get it perfect, you’ll never get it out there. Remember, it’s all about progress, not perfection.
Here at Nave, we’re relentless when it comes to learning, evolution and continuous improvement. Instead of striving to achieve perfect results, we focus on delivering small incremental pieces of high value to the market. We validate whether we have made the right decisions and if we are wrong, we turn our failures into opportunities for improvement.
That mindset is ultimately the driving force at Nave that enables us to achieve 500% growth on an annual basis.
These results can be yours as well! Just keep this magic mantra on top of your mind: Progress, not perfection!
If you’re willing to learn more about how to build high-quality products quickly and efficiently and meet your customers’ expectations, I’d be thrilled to welcome you to our Sustainable Predictability program.
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Meet the Author
Sonya Siderova is a passionate product manager and a driving force behind Nave, a Kanban analytics suite that helps teams improve their delivery speed through data-driven decision making. When she's not catering to her two little ones, you might find Sonya absorbed in a good heavyweight boxing match or behind a screen crafting a new blog post.