We should all be striving for excellence on our projects: good planning, effective communication, and high-quality products, but excellence is not the same as perfection. Sometimes too much emphasis is placed on a project being perfect (or, at least, the end-product being perfect) when aiming for perfection can prevent a project from being successfully delivered at all.
Aiming for perfection means that test results have to be 100% perfect or the customer has to be 100% satisfied when in reality most "successful" products and "satisfied" customers have not necessarily achieved 100%. Sometimes seeking perfection can even mean that a business will not move forward with producing an innovative new product because the means of achieving absolute perfection, such as new technology, are simply not yet available. And yet some of the best new ideas in our fast-paced, high-tech world are those released as a work in progress, although it is unlikely an organization would actually admit that at the time of release. What is more important than seeking perfection is seeing the potential in a new product or idea.
Of course, not aiming for perfection does not mean that you ignore the need to deliver a product that is fit-for-purpose, that satisfies the majority of a customer's requirements and that you prepare and plan effectively in order to do so. With so many advanced technologies and rapid routes to market (particularly social media) if your business does not take advantage of an opportunity then someone else will. A perfect new product still in the development stage will always struggle to catch up with the product that has had months more in the marketplace building a reputation and market share even if it has some glitches.
So instead of seeking the perfect project outcome, focus on what is actually required to ensure the end-product and do that as well as you can. Or worse, when you finally reach what you thought was the perfect end-product you may find the goal posts have moved, particularly for a technology-related project where the market is moving apace.
Obviously, not every project will, or should, get beyond the initiation stages; detailed research, requirements gathering and business analysis may have to be carried out and this might reveal that the project is not viable in terms of technology or cost but, nevertheless, don't fall into the trap of thinking every tiny element has to be clarified before the project can begin. Also watch out for information overload that simply bogs the project down in too much detail, preventing it from advancing.
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And don't underestimate the value of feedback from real customers, both good and bad, it can help to improve and enhance a product in a way that no amount of analyzing and research ever can. IT projects are a typical example of this approach – nobody ever expects them to be perfect in the first round and there is an expectation that subsequent versions will be released that improve on the original – look at Apple's iPhone – the latest version is far superior to the original iPhone 3 but that doesn't mean that at the time the original was not well-received., In fact, it was a ground-breaking product. Also, many of Microsoft's tools have steadily improved over years after initially gaining the lion's share of the market.
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