In 100 Words: The Perfect Pot

A pottery teacher divides her class into two halves and gives them an assignment to create pots during the semester. One group was asked to focus on perfection of the pot and second group on number of pots they finished.

First group worked hard to create their perfect pot while second group immediately started making all kinds of pots.

End of semester, two groups were judged based on their most perfect pot. The pot made by second group won. Because they were judged on quantity, they executed more, practiced more and hence, delivered better than those who chased perfection.


Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

Only Practice Is Not Enough!

Practice makes a man perfect”, they say.

Only practice is not enough. In business, have you seen people who have been doing something for a long time and still not very good at it? If practice was enough, these people should have been rock stars in their work, right? But they aren’t.

So, what’s missing? I think, feedback.

Imagine that one of your team members is working on an important assignment for a long time, and there is no feedback. People treat no news as good news and end up assuming that what they are doing is correct. This can be dangerous.

Then there are people who constantly want to know if they are doing the right thing, and regular feedbacks not only help them improve, but also keep them aligned and motivated. People don’t want to wait for one year to know their “areas of improvement”.

As individuals, when we practice our art, we need to constantly look for feedbacks. We are our first source of feedback, since we invariably “feel” about how we have performed. Our gut is the strongest feedback system we are equipped with. Look for your internal feedback, and you mostly get the answer.

Practice only makes us perfect (and helps us improve), when there is a frequent supply of high quality feedback so that we can quickly do necessary course corrections, adjust our game, deliver better and hence learn.

Bottom line:

– If you want to build a constantly learning organization, build a culture where feedback is shared early and often.

– To find greatest level of success in an organization, professionals need to remain open to accept feedback, analyze it positively and use it for their further actions.

– – – – –

Check out: July Leadership Development Carnival hosted by Dan McCarthy – an excellent collection of high quality content on leadership and executive development. Carnival also features my post “Leading People? A Few Core Lessons”.

– – – – –

Related Posts at QAspire:

> Setting Expectations On Behaviors You Value: 5 Pointers

> 5 Pointers For Effectively Dealing With Negative Feedback

> An Informed Team Works Better

Perfection v/s. Getting Things Done

I had an interesting experience recently with one of my team members. We were to submit an important project document to client and we decided that we will first freeze the table of contents (ToC) and then move on to filling up content.

Almost a day went by and I had no update on ToC. When inquired, I found that team member was aiming at creating a perfect ToC by referring to all possible external references – without realizing that we had lost a day in pursuit of perfection when we could have done it in less time and could have perfected it as we go along documenting. In pursuit of perfection, you become your own worst critic!

There are situations on project when progress is important in right direction – in my experience, perfection is an ongoing process that actually starts after you set a right direction and make some progress therein. That is the starting point of perfection as a process. When you repeat this process over and over again, perfection gets ingrained in whatever you do – leading to excellence.

Some of the important lessons for me and my team member from this experience were:

  • More you try to perfect something, more time it will take. (and you never know whether it will be perfect at the end!)
  • It does not have to be perfect – just good enough will do.
  • Perfection has to be a process – rather than a one-time-attempt. Perfect Incrementally.
  • Sometimes a quick 90% solution is better than a 100% perfect solution that comes in when it is no longer needed.
  • Focus on a few vital things – and set priorities looking at purpose and time available.
  • Perfection cannot pursued be at the cost of taking actions at right time.
  • Get it done once – then perfect it. Do this over and over again and perfection becomes a way of work.

I think – following two quotes aptly sum up the lessons above:

“Aim at perfection in everything, though in most things it is unattainable. However, they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much nearer to it than those whose laziness and despondency make them give it up as unattainable.  – Lord Chesterfield:

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. – Dr. David M. Burns”