Good Enough…Isn’t

How often do we hear the comment, “It’s good enough” or some variation of it – that’s fine, that’ll do, that gets the job done?  I like to kid my Oklahoma friends about the motto, “Oklahoma, OK.”  OK?  We’re average?  Right in the middle?  Nothing special?

 The big problem with this isn’t the specific instance – often, what’s been done is enough and spending any more time or resources on it isn’t productive or valuable.  The big problem is the mindset it creates in actual human beings.  It sets the bar too low, and we’ll end up getting “good enough” even on work where it isn’t.  With people, we tend to get what we expect (or less).  If we expect average or okay, we’re going to get average or okay (and even that only if we’re lucky).

At Luman International, we created the concept of Pure-Performance.  We came to hate not only “it’s good enough” but “let’s work for high performance.”  “High” is too often subjective.  Higher than what?  Last year, last quarter?  Everyone facing bankruptcy?  Higher than whom?  Our peers?  The biggest people in our market?  Google?  Apple?  We can always find someone or something that we can be “higher” than.  It doesn’t mean the comparison is worthless, or even wrong.  It just means that we’re setting the bar too low, or maybe too fuzzy.  The output is not likely to be labelled “great.”

Pure-Performance says, “Good enough isn’t.”  It lines up with football legend Vince Lombardi’s guidance, “Aim for perfection, and you might end up with excellence.”  It urges us to throw out everything that isn’t producing results, adding value, or leading to improved performance.  If it isn’t leading to something useful and great, why on earth are we doing it?  We might not be able to weed out all of the useless activity, but we’re sure going to be a better organization if we try.

The vast majority of training and leadership development misses this mark almost entirely.  Even worse, it often forces everyone toward the “norm:”  “This is how leaders act/should act.  Go and do likewise.”  But in our 29 years of working with hundreds of organizations, we can say with absolute certainty that most leaders are leading something that is 20 or 30% performance and 70 or 80% nonsense.  They don’t even try to build the pillars of performance into their cultures, or to drive out the barriers to performance (even if they knew what they were).  Organizations that have managed to survive for decades – in part because their competitors are even more clueless – are wasting resources and exposing themselves at some point to organizational disaster.

Examples?  Recent ones are:

  • Kodak – facing bankrupty from the digital onslaught, even though they invented it – more available in digital than just a short time ago, but not “high” enough to save them
  • Barnes & Noble – coming to dominate the bookstore market just in time to watch it become burdensome, costly, and a distraction from the digital world and the introduction of their Nook (but at least they were operating “higher” than Borders!)
  • Circuit City – trumpeted by Jim Collins as one of the 11 “Good to Great” companies right before they shuffled off this mortal coil
  • Fannie Mae – dominating the mortage market right before they helped destroy the mortgage market and themselves (also a “Good to Great” company)

These were all once great companies, operating at a “higher” level than their competitors.  Higher didn’t save them.  They all had way too much waste, misdirection, and focus on the wrong things.  They not only didn’t get to Pure-Performance  – they didn’t even know what it was.

Pure-Performance.  There are keys to getting it, and things to avoid like the plague if we want it.  We encourage you to stop worrying about high performance.  Enter the world of pure-performance instead – different in kind, not just in degree.  There is leadership and market dominance in people who go through that door.

Italicized terms are trademarked property of Luman International.  All rights reserved.

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