I feel like the past year has been one of great indecision for all of us. I heard “I don’t know yet” more than I ever have, in relation to politics, business and personal lives.
In the business world, we throw around the “Good to Great” idiom — which says good enough is the enemy of great. I think we can better motivate ourselves by turning that phrase on its head.
The enemy of good is most often perfection. I’ve been known to call this “perfection paralysis,” and I’ve also been known to suffer from it from time to time. I’m not the first, either. Eighteenth-century French philosopher Voltaire told us the same thing: “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien” (“Perfect is the enemy of good”).
Famed WWII General George S. Patton said this another way: “A good plan violently executed today is far and away better than a perfect plan next week.”
In business, I see three types of people: the postulator, the planner and the doer.
I have a friend and business associate who I have admiringly and frustratingly nicknamed Captain Idea Pants. This guy can pour a cup of coffee, sit down at his desk and have 15 viable ideas in the first two hours of the day. They’re well thought out, researched and usually presented in a way that everyone can understand. It’s remarkable. He’s even a pretty good planner.
The problem comes when it’s time to execute. He just won’t pull the trigger because he’s so worried a gap in his planning will be revealed.
Planners are great to have on your leadership team, but they should never be trusted to make the decisions. Planners do what they’re best at, and they do it exhaustively. When they have finished planning, they add options for every contingency. Once worries are addressed, the thing they are planning just continues to get bigger and more ambitious until it becomes impractical.
I could plan a new office for two years, and it may be perfect, but the moment the plan exceeds my budget or my lot lines, it’s no longer useful. And the whole time I’m planning, I’m working in the old office.
Everyone needs a planner, but every planner needs a decision maker to swoop in and begin doing.
That brings us to our third person — the doer.
Doers are the ones who could care less about sitting around a table or drawing on a whiteboard. Doers do.
Bob Goff is an attorney, activist and author who I had the pleasure of seeing speak a few years ago in Nashville. He didn’t get into law school, so he sat outside the dean’s office and asked for a second chance every day until it worked. He and his family host foreign dignitaries in their vacation cabin because when his kids were young, they asked him why so many countries fight with each other. He keeps office hours on Tom Sawyer Island in Disneyland because clients are nicer to each other at Disneyland.
When I saw him speak, he said his success and the almost magical quality of his life stem from his decision to do.
If you have an idea, that’s great, he said. But don’t call me until you’re ready to do it. I don’t want to talk about it. I want to do it.
A great business decision is the result of collaboration among all three of these people, but if you can only possess one quality, possess the ability to pull the trigger.
Warren Buffet has said that his ability to make a decision early is what makes him better than others. He gets deals early instead of waiting for them to be perfect.
I think about planning and postulating like I think about wine. One glass of red wine per day is considered good for your heart. The Harvard Medical School has reported that four to seven glasses of wine per week can lower the risk for prostate cancer. What happens if you start drinking more? Well, it’s bad for your heart and your liver.
If you sit around planning and perfecting everything, you’ll never put anything out into the world. You’ll never pull the trigger. You’ll never make your community better. Do your due diligence, and then do us all a favor and pull the trigger.
Plan in moderation. Execute without restraint.
Let’s make our businesses better and our communities stronger in 2017. Let’s resolve right now to start deciding.