When “good enough” is the best

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Sometimes it is important for teachers and school leaders to continuously improve their performance. That’s particularly true when continuous improvement affects the life prospects of young people.

At other times, it is important that educators accept the standard of “good enough.” That’s particularly true when striving for perfection prevents them from having the time or energy to focus on high-leverage areas in their professional and personal lives.

While there are things we want done perfectly—say, brain surgery or the landing of a commercial aircraft—and other things we may want to continuously improve—say, the overall quality of teaching or leadership—there are some areas for which the pursuit of perfection produces stress and interferes with the achievement of important goals.

Here’s an example: Let’s say it takes me two hours to draft a blog post to a 90% standard of quality. If I invest two more hours in polishing it, I may achieve 95%. Two more hours, and perhaps I could reach 97%. I have clearly reached a point of diminishing returns.

If I can accept the “good enough” standard of 90%, I could produce three blog posts at 90% instead of just one at 97%.

The decision about whether to pursue “continuous improvement” or “good enough” is to a large degree situational.

Sometimes it is important to relentlessly pursue improved performance and outcomes.

At other times it’s desirable to lower one’s standards, particular when those standards interfere with our overall performance, create stress for ourselves and others, and deplete energy rather than create it.

The challenge, of course, is to acquire the wisdom to discern when an attitude of “good enough” strengthens individual performance and the well-being of the school community and when “continuous improvement” is essential to the development of human and organizational potential.

What aspects of your life and work would benefit from a “good enough” perspective, and which require an attitude of “continuous improvement?”

 

2 Responses to “When “good enough” is the best”


  1. 1 Jamie April 11, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Your blog post analogy resonates with me, as does this entire topic. We still have many belongings boxed up while our hurricane Sandy damage is being repaired. The boxes, from Lowes, have these words on them: Never Stop Improving. I see why Lowes believes this and there was a time in my life when I believed it too. Not any longer. I am now a happier “good enoughist!”


  1. 1 Is “Never Stop Improving” Smart Advice? | Trackback on May 4, 2013 at 11:08 am

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