Perfection is a lofty goal, but it rarely happens in the day-to-day workplace. And why should it? In most things, striving for perfection represents a waste of resources better used elsewhere. No one really expects you and your team to do everything exactly right every single time.
Most of the time, good enough really is good enough—as long as you achieve the minimum requirements necessary and maintain your forward momentum. While you do owe yourself, your team, and your organization a consistently high level of performance, there’s a certain point in all everyday tasks where attention to detail turns to perfectionism and, worse, to micromanagement. Both practices inevitably stall productivity.
Exceptions to the Rule
Admittedly, some tasks require a higher standard. When it’s time to make a presentation to upper management, you’ll want to make sure your slides and reports are as good as you can make them, without typos and errors. In fact, have someone else take a look before you make the actual presentation. Rehearse in front of a volunteer audience, so you can catch any problems before they surprise you on the big day. The same is true of big-money proposals and expensive projects. You don’t dare make a big mistake with a few zeroes.
So yes, in some cases, do strive for perfection. But if you realize you’ve just spent an hour crafting the perfect email to your manager or internal team, then you’ve wasted perfectly good time you could have spent more productively.
The Bottom Line
You don’t need to kill yourself on most tasks, and you don’t have to grind down your team demanding perfection, either. That inevitably backfires, and proves unreasonable in the vast majority of workplace situations. Save your perfectionism and 12-hour days for the times when it really matters—when your performance can have a game-changing impact on your company. Under ordinary situations, watching everyone’s performance like a hawk and reworking everything to death has a debilitating effect on morale and productivity.