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The Enemy of the Good

Spouses can help you with many things, but only siblings can go way back into your past and remind you of the times when you really screwed up. My sister, who works with me as both a practicing attorney and our controller, recently took time out of her busy schedule to do just that.

She harkened back to the time when my father had instructed me, as a new driver, to make sure to affix the up to date registration stickers to my license tag. As a careful man and at times, meticulous, he cautioned me to wash the tag first with a damp wash cloth so that the sticker would stick to tag and not just dirt. He then gave me the envelope containing the sticker.

I had good intentions of following his instructions. I really did. Only, I never seemed to have a damp wash cloth with me and when I remembered his instructions, no such thing seemed to be in my vicinity. I put the stickers in the glove compartment, where they stayed until that cold, windy evening many months later when I parked my car in the wrong place.

I can almost see the steam coming from my father’s ears as he left work early to pick me up and take me to the impound lot underneath the JFX. The fine for parking illegally was high…but it was nothing compared to the fine for not displaying the proper registration.

“Where are the registration stickers,” he asked?

I tried to swim upstream with my explanation as to why they were in the glove compartment, but he was hearing none of it. We drove home in silence, I’m sure. He fumed and I, glad to be in a separate car, simply contemplated my fate when we got home.

This was my first conscious exposure to two rules which I encounter time and time again:

  1. Make it easy for people to do what you want them to do; and.
  2. Don’t allow perfect to be the enemy of the good.

I’ve covered Rule #1 on many occasions, but it is the second rule that I find causes problems again and again. Almost every time I work with a client where a notice, bid or claim deadline becomes an issue, part of the reason for missing it was not that the deadline slipped by unnoticed, but rather because the client ran out of time trying to make its compliance perfect.

Clearly, perfect is the goal. One never knows when the gap between good and perfect will cause a problem or result in a missed opportunity. But the answer is not to let slip the deadline. The answer is to scrutinize the gap and create a system to eliminate the shortfall…on time.

In my experience, it is that scrutiny and the resultant will and effort to put the system in place, that ultimately separates the stars from the also-rans.