Canadian Lawyer InHouse

October/November 2021

Legal news and trends for Canadian in-house counsel and c-suite executives

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Page 30 of 35 29 and work until it's good enough to get feedback, good enough to test it out with customers or clients, or good enough to try again and improve via a new iteration. It's a process used successfully by lean startups, technology teams and software developers. Increments and iterations are the new perfect. They're more effective in helping us make progress over perfection. How to go for good enough There are four things you can do to set a course for good enough rather than the pointless pursuit of perfection. 1 Stop expecting or requiring perfection Accept first drafts, rough cuts and mock-ups. The design industry thrives on them to gain early feedback and ensure the efficiency of work going forward. 2 Make the standard clearer Great leaders clarify the end goal or outcome beyond a generic call for 'high quality' or 'really good.' Explain the standard in a measurable way; it will help people enormously. 3 Improve over time Allow learning, iterations and insights to build on first attempts. The best and brightest organizations know the power of improving over time rather than expecting perfection. 4 Assess whether 'near enough' is good enough Check whether 'ish' might be feasible, doable or acceptable to the business more often. It's a major productivity gain, and it's more motivating for teams when they complete work. If you spot perfectionism behaviours or hear people being highly critical of them- selves or others, know that a standard isn't clear enough and perfectionism could be at play. Step in, coach, guide or suggest that a specific standard might help everyone get on the same page, gain alignment and work to achieve the goal. There will be less stress and greater success. Don't let perfectionism get in the way of doing good work — for yourself, your team, and those you advocate for, partner with or support within the organization. Getting work done using increments and iterations beats the stress, burnout and mental health effects of perfection-chasing every time. Increments and iterations are the new perfect. They're more effective in helping us make progress over perfection. reduces over time) and the 80/20 rule, or the Pareto Principle —that just 20% of our efforts yield 80% of the results — are two approaches that validate the practice of going for good enough rather than the waste of perfection. Next time you're working on a proposal or report, or developing a new system or process, stay alert to your desire to pursue perfection. Good leadership starts with us modeling behaviours for others; here, it's about knowing when good enough is good enough. The rise of perfectionism The problem is perfectionism is on the increase. Research by psychologists Thomas Curran and Andrew Hill revealed three types of perfectionism: Self-oriented ("I expect high standards of myself") Societal ("I believe society expects high standards of me") Other-oriented ("I expect high standards of you") All three are on the rise, but societal perfectionism has increased the most, by 33% over the past couple of decades. Future projections don't look good, either. The hitch with perfection is that it simply doesn't exist, and pursuing it is a foolish and wasteful activity. If we find ourselves — or a team — staying back, taking work home or working on weekends in a devoted effort to make something better, it's likely there's a wasteful pursuit of perfection underway. The more contemporary preference is to go for 'good enough' or 'ish' — which means near enough. The practice is to work on a smaller piece or packet of work — an increment — Lynne Cazaly is a keynote speaker and advisor who helps businesses think and work in ways that are more productive, collaborative, creative and effective. She is the author of ish: The Problem with our Pursuit for Perfection and the Life-Changing Practice of Good Enough. Find out more at

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