Another deadline passed and the manager called to ask, “What do I do with this employee?” No, it wasn’t the employee’s fault.
I know the manager well. He is a perfectionist. His staff knows it. He doesn’t.
When he assigns work to a person, he expects perfection and will critique it until it is ‘right’. His staff will make it as perfect as possible, recognizing that deadlines matter less to their manager than perfection. His staff is proud of their work product, but disappointed that they cannot satisfy their boss’ requirement of perfection.
Contrast these two maxims:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Colossians 3:23
The perfect is the enemy of the good. Voltaire
I used to think that a perfect product was the duty of all Christians—but that was a horrible misunderstanding of Colossians 3:23. Paul says to the slaves in Colossae that their attitude (if you will, the binding of the Holy Spirit with the spirit of each man)–not the perfection of their work–was the problem. Voltaire made the simple case that good work wins the day.
The Value of Leadership
As a recovering (and, often, relapsing) perfectionist, I have to remember the Value Triangle that organizations use in decision-making. For any issue, product or service, we provide Value with the ingredients of Quality (of the product), Time (opportunity or convenience) and Money (cost or income). You can easily have one side of the Value Triangle, but it is hard to have two sides—but worth the effort. Seldom, if ever, will you regularly achieve all three sides of the triangle. It just isn’t worth it. For instance, if we work hard for perfection (Quality) without expanding budget (Money), we will likely not meet the deadline (Time).
Especially in non-profit work, Perfection and Time are in a battle. Often we leaders force Time to lose the battle. Unfortunately, opportunities for organizational gain are about Time. Remarkable leaders always have a clock ticking inside them to meet deadlines (Time) by negotiating either Quality (choosing good over perfect) or Money (spending more or gaining less).
Rock, Paper, Scissors
So, does Time beat all? Nope, but close. Like a drummer in a good band, the leader has to keep the beat so the other instruments can do their thing. Leaders get to make the judgment call for each project. Having said that, normal operating procedure for successful leaders is simply “Keep the deadline”, then manage Quality and Money.
An old maxim says it well:
The Line Worker asks “What?”
The Engineer asks “How?”
The Manager asks “When?”
Hear more from Paul Martin (and many more!) on the main stage at Momentum 2017!