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10/31/2013

The value of imperfection

Did you ever notice how often people complain about things not being perfect?  I always listen to what they say. Then, I ask them to look at the situation from a different angle. If you do so constructively, you will notice that imperfections are a gold mine of opportunities… if you want to see them.

Definition

According to Wikipedia, perfection is “a state of completeness and flawlessness”.  In my opinion this ignores several aspects. While things can be flawless and complete today, they can prove to be completely insufficient tomorrow. They can be perfect in a specific context, but completely misaligned in another. Something can be perfect while parts of it may perfectly be imperfect.

Within our company

Do all employees need to be perfect?  Impossible!  Yes, individually they must share our company’s values and as such fit into our organizational culture.  Each of them has to show a minimal intellectual level and is expected to create qualitative and timely deliverables. But gathering and organizing imperfect people into a well-oiled team can get you close to the perfect set-up. That team will do its utmost best to realize a successful project and to deliver valuable services to its internal or external customers. When dealing with talent management, we also look at it from a holistic perspective. We can get closer to perfection by improving the individual as well as the collective talent of our people.

Can an organization be perfect?  I really don’t believe it needs to be. We constantly need to adapt to the changing environment: business requirements, technology trends, business partners, competition, etc. To be honest, if everything would be working perfectly, I’d start worrying. Next to getting bored, we would tend to become complacent and lose attentiveness to changing conditions as well as to new opportunities. If all our structures and processes would be a perfect match to today’s requirements, we would benefit in the short term, but we would pay a very high price in the medium to long term, as we would endanger the creativity and innovation in our company.

I believe a company like ours always needs to be in a state of organized chaos (the “chaos”-part clearly being underweighted.) At the same time, we need to focus on some improvement opportunities and/or problematic aspects of our organization in order to get closer to perfection. The – sometimes consciously induced – unbalances in the organization trigger people to think out of the box. It encourages them to come up with corrective actions and very often with refreshing and innovating initiatives. Allowing mistakes stimulates entrepreneurship and innovation.

Outside our company

Here’s where the real value of imperfection lies for all of us. Actually, it is the reason why we exist. Our core business is addressing our customers’ imperfections, this way getting them closer to perfection. For Delaware Consulting this comes down to working on 3 main value drivers: improving our customers’ operational excellence, strengthening their business insights and optimizing their own customers’ experience. That’s why we consider ourselves our customer’s Sherpa: our mission is to guide our customers safely to the top in their respective domains and to make them shine: “Out for glory, just not our own!”

Being better than others at identifying our customers’ gap to perfection and bringing them closer to it, is actually the best way to grow our service portfolio and to increase our market share.

Conclusion

Realizing perfection is a utopian dream. On the other hand the state of perfection is a great target. It allows us to focus our actions and define our aspirations. Identifying the gap with perfection is stimulating and inspiring.

At the same time, it is important to always put things in perspective and to ignore many aspects that are not as they could or should be. So, choose a limited number of things to change, go after these and accept the rest. One of my best friends actually uses a great metaphor for this: “You have a limited number of arrows. Choose your targets wisely: go for the deer and let the small game go.”

 

Author: Jan Delaere. You can follow Jan on Twitter (@delaerej) or connect with him on LinkedIn