Information and blogs from SeJo IT

Striving for perfection

Mon 02 September 2019 management / perfection /

Examples

I needed a deployment prepared in an environment that we did not own. We were reliant on another team to prepare the systems for us. I prepared the scope and presented this to the manager of that team. We needed this done in a few months time. Something I know my team could have done in a week or 6, they were asking for a year time. I was baffled, I thought he started the negotiations by putting out an extreme anchor and went in negotiation mode. No matter what I said or did, it stayed at that 1 year time frame. I couldn't believe it and started losing my patience and started asking why something my team without any in depth knowledge of the environment would be able to do this in 6 weeks and his would need a year. At that point the manager stated that I couldn't expect the same excellence from his team as I expected this from mine. I exploded. My mind was reeling, how do I even discuss this? What is happening? I couldn't believe this.

In my head this did not compute, it was like sending ARM instructions to a MIPS processor.

The second example shows another view on perfection.

During the 1:1's I had with my team, I asked them to create SWOT analysis of themselves and their peers. We discussed them in group in order to learn from each other and to see how others see their strengths and weaknesses. One members SWOT the biggest strength by every one was the same. It wasn't even on his own list. He had _no_ clue that that was so special. His reaction was:

"That's not a strength, that's normal? Who isn't like that?"

In his world that was a core skill that everyone has, and he didn't realize that he has perfected that skill in such a way that he considered this to be a basic element.

Mediocrity

Example 1 is the bane of my existence. I cannot and will not agree with mediocrity, it simply doesn't work. Once you agree with mediocre quality you cannot expect anyone to go the extra mile towards perfection.

Mediocrity destroys teams within a few weeks, you can have a team that is high achieving, produces high quality work and thrives on perfection. The minute you introduce a mediocre member, it starts to fall down. People will see the huge difference between their quality of work and their level immediately and subconsciously shave of some corners.

Sadly it's not regarded as a well understood concept, people blame you for striving for perfection.

Not everyone is that good.

I do agree with that statement and that's when you teach them to be that good, that's when you have your eagerness for perfection rub off on your colleagues. Train them, don't agree with pull requests that still have code style violations even if it's the tenth round of review. Give them the time to learn to strive for perfection, as no-one is perfect. We all need to grow and we all need that eagerness to grow.

Every flaw you introduce now, is one that will bite you in the end.

Expectations

Example 2 shows that when something is engrained in our being we don't consider it exceptional or perfect, we consider this to be the norm. It is the level we will expect from everyone and the level that will imply the judging of the work delivered.

It is a good thing, but also a very dangerous element. By not recognizing that this is something you or your team member perfected you remove the option of allowing the new member to grow and learn. Before you can teach or guide someone in the topic, you must be very aware of your level/skills and flaws on that topic.

Know yourself before knowing your teams. Understand your skillet and expect perfection, but teach those who haven't achieved it yet.

Conclusion

Striving for perfection is the differentiator between a good team and an excellent team and it starts at the top. If you as a manager do not focus on the little things that grow your team (if there aren't bigger things anymore) then you failed. Every 1:1 you talk about the last period (if you follow my 1:1) you put in things they should grow in, you give examples and show them how you think it should have been done.

Again, I want it to be clear that I don't expect people to provide perfect results, but I do expect them to strive for it, I expect people to look for that one detail that they otherwise would miss, that one extra line of code that is the cherry on top of the cake.

on the top

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