Thursday, December 28, 2006

In Search of the Reasonably Good

I once knew a department director who did impeccable work. Any project that came his way received beautiful analysis and a solid course of action eventually ensued.

He had only one, recurring, problem: By the time he took action, it was irrelevant.

The word quickly spread: If time is of the essence, don't let any project get near his operation. It will be taken aside and smothered with excessive analysis. On the other hand, if you have plenty of time and want a marvelous analysis, he's your boy.

How he was able to keep his job was a mystery. He worked in a field in which most matters were time-sensitive. My only guess is that the organization accommodated his work style to such a degree that although he was like the broken clock that is right twice a day, twice a day was sufficient.

He was an extreme example and yet you can find less-severe versions in many a workplace. They consist of the executive who keeps thinking of new options, the creative type who cannot focus, and the young striver who becomes paralyzed by perfectionism.

We all know of organizations that routinely accept shoddy work.There's no excuse for that.

But attention must also be given to the teams and individuals who need to be urged to drop their slug-like search for excellence so a new and more meaningful standard can be achieved: The reasonably good.

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