Why you need to challenge the idea of perfectionism

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AUTHOR
Carolyn Taylor
Is the pursuit of perfectionism holding your organisation back?

In our fast and frenetic world, the default position of many people is busyness. As a result, we often hear our clients struggle with focus and prioritisation, without which they know that their business goals will be at risk. For companies looking to change a culture of too much, letting go of perfectionism and instead pursuing excellence in just fewer core areas is the key. 
 
Perfectionism isn’t perfect
 
It is not uncommon for organisations to struggle to make strategic choices in focus areas and then channel their efforts into them, stepping away from other options which are also attractive. The culture of these companies is often based on several beliefs around more being better, that everything must be perfect, and that good enough most definitely isn’t good enough. This almost obsessive need for everything to be perfect means people struggle not doing certain activities, or doing them at a level that is less than perfect. As a result, organisations do far too much, waste time and money on unnecessary or duplicated work, and most importantly, don’t make progress on the areas that really matter to their business. 
Fit for purpose or ‘good enough’.
 
Avoiding perfectionism is hard at the personal level

Most of us find saying ‘no’ to others a difficult thing to do, we want to please others and to look good in their eyes, and so this can drive us to be less effective at making the choices that we need to make to keep our perfectionistic tendencies under control.  Perfectionism can lead us to be very tough on ourselves, as well as other people, and to set standards which are unrealistic, and often un-necessary.  But we worry that others will judge us if we re anything but perfect in everything, and this makes it a harder habit to give up.  
 
Fit for purpose or 'good enough'

We saw the perfectionism phenomena so many times that at Walking the Talk we developed a concept within our culture change work called ‘fit for purpose’. This describes the process of understanding what you are trying to achieve by doing a certain activity, and assigning your effort level proportionately. By its nature, it means that your effort will vary dependent on the task and outcome desired, and that sometimes good enough will absolutely be good enough. 
 
Pursuing excellence instead
 
Rather than striving for elusive perfectionism, many of our clients are rightly, and more healthily, focusing on the pursuit of excellence. For these organisations, they have made strategic choices about where they want to focus, and are targeting their resources at achieving these goals. They want to deliver exceptionally in a few key areas, and they accept that this means not everything has to be, or even can be, perfect. This enables these companies to innovate quicker, get products and services to market faster, and deliver benefits for their customers that will help them maintain or grow their market share. 
 
By helping yourself, and your organisation reduce perfectionism and instead pursue excellence, your culture change efforts will gain traction, you will be less stressed, your people will stay with you longer and be more productive, and you will accelerate your progress on the areas that will really move the needle for your business. 

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