“Many great ideas have never seen the light of day due to perfectionism. You don’t have to fix every flaw before seeking feedback. You just need to be proud of your progress. Don’t wait to share a project until it’s done. Share it when what’s done so far reflects your potential.”
– Adam Grant, organisational psychologist and best-selling author
Why perfection is important, but ultimately stifles effective strategy execution
Imagine a blank page before you – filled with endless possibilities of untold stories. Now, imagine your modern-day writer: Staring at the screen, typing out that first sentence, feeling the pressure of it being not quite perfect, pressing the backspace button, and starting over again, inevitably repeating this process many times.
Perfection is a noble pursuit. Of course, we want our work to exemplify excellence. But too often, it stifles creativity and progress, leaving our most ambitious dreams unfulfilled before they can be transformed into goals.
Through our experience journeying with business leaders and CEOs to implement their strategies, we have often found the same desire for perfection. Perfection in focusing on the right strategic priorities. Or crafting goals that perfectly encapsulate outcomes. And sometimes the expectation of perfection in executing the strategy 100%, smoothly and without any blunders. Unfortunately, this mindset ultimately hampers progress and inhibits effective strategy execution.
Just as writer’s block can be conquered through the practice of forming a habit of writing a set amount of words per day, so too can we overcome our perfectionist tendencies in strategy execution through the practice of OKRs.
How OKRs enable effective strategy execution – and possibly even leads to perfection in the process
Creating momentum through habits
OKRs is a goal-management methodology that enables effective execution of our most important strategic priorities. The formal definition of OKRs, as defined by Ben Lamorte, are a critical thinking framework and, perhaps more importantly, an ongoing discipline.
Through the continuous practice of OKRs, we create habits that enable teams to reach new heights. These healthy business habits are created through regular OKR check-ins, which create continuous focus on and engagement with a team’s most strategic priorities. But, more importantly, through these habits, we can change behaviour and transform mindsets, catalysing a shift from output to outcomes-based thinking.
Perfection isn’t the goal here. Do as much as time allows, and then start. You’ll get better through the ongoing discipline – it often takes time for teams to get into the rhythm of OKRs. But in trusting the process, teams can develop fitness for OKRs and in doing so get better and fitter at the OKR process and build momentum in executing their strategies.
Crafting OKRs with a pragmatic lens to drive progress
In addition to creating habits, another core principle of OKRs is pragmatism. We strive to set Objectives that strike a balance between ambitious and achievable, with Key Results that have a 50/50 shot of being achieved.
By crafting Objectives and Key Results that are set at the right level, teams become motivated to engage with Objectives and achieve their Key Results. With the foundation of pragmatism, we can drive accountability and commitment, ensuring teams are moving in the same direction.
This – pragmatic goals that are within reach but still ambitious – will drive progress. Not perfectly articulated goals.
Creating space for teams to learn, experiment, fail fast, and ultimately establishing an environment where innovation can thrive
Further, while setting clear OKRs at the right level is important, ensuring that our OKRs are 100% right or even 100% achieved is less important.
Pursuing our goals together is where the real benefits of OKRs emerge. It pushes us to have the right conversations and learn from experience as we refine the process and our OKRs on the way.
“To make effortless progress on what matters, learning-sized mistakes must be encouraged. This isn’t giving yourself—or others—permission to consistently produce poor-quality work; it’s simply letting go of the absurd pressure to always do everything perfectly.”
– Greg McKeown, ‘Effortless’
OKRs enable teams to explore often uncertain futures while providing a clear direction for teams to rally behind. As teams progress on their OKR journey and reflect on the process, they will uncover many learnings and build their strategy execution muscles.
And this is really where the “perfection” of OKRs lies. Even if we do not perfectly achieve our Key Results, we are learning through the process. And in doing so driving correct behaviours and having the right conversations that will enable teams to effectively execute their strategy and create tangible business value.