Aim for Perfection, Execute with Precision

a cargo ship viewed from above

Perfection is a goal; Precision is what you aim for. Focus on executing your strategy with precision: this will enable you to adapt and progress.

Imagine you are at the helm of a boat. The boat can be a small sailboat, a massive container ship, or anything in between. You are the captain of the boat. You not only have the skills and knowledge needed to operate it, but you have also spent so much time on this boat, you know its unique quirks.

You have brought the boat into the harbor and now need to dock the boat. There are strong winds, and the tide is rapidly falling. You approach the dock with dexterity and agility. To successfully dock the boat, you need to take into account the situation at hand and be precise.

As the boat is secured on the dock, you may hear people comment that you docked the boat “perfectly.”

While it may have looked that way to others, you know that there is a clear distinction between precision and perfection, and what you did was dock the boat with precision, not perfection. Even in the calmest seas, perfection is out of reach. Yes, you aim for perfection, but what you do when you bring your boat to the dock, is execute as precisely as possible, adapting to the situation at hand, through the eyes of perfection there is always something wrong, a line not thrown at the perfect time, a slight jerk as the boat is slowed by a docking line. You get the drift – no pun intended.

Winston Churchill said, “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” Too often I see this play out. I see leaders and their teams create strategies, and fail to execute them because they are focused on perfection, not precision.

Perfection and precision are part of a formula, and they work together. If you are building something that requires perfection, like a nuclear submarine, there is, within the formula, the fluidity of precision that enables you to adapt to the situation and work to the goal of perfection.

Even before the pandemic, change was constant, and we needed to be able to continuously adapt as markets moved, competitors attacked, and customers renegotiated. As leaders and as organizations you needed to adjust and adapt in order to make progress – to get the results needed. The pandemic has accelerated change and made that constant state of change we were in feel almost like slow motion.

If you wait for the perfect conditions to execute your strategy, or if you hold perfection as the standard for success, you will not progress. Perfection is a goal, precision is what you aim for. Focus on executing your strategy with precision. This will enable you to adapt and progress.

Landing a boat with precision versus perfection is how great companies and leaders operate.

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