project management success factors

Does A Project Need to be Perfect to be Successful?

Everyone likes the idea of perfection – the perfect holiday, the perfect house or the perfect job – but, in reality, we might want these things to be perfect, we might try and convince ourselves that they are perfect but they rarely are. And the same could be said for any project that we have embarked upon; we start out with the notion of perfection – often those involved believe that the project will solves all their problems – the new IT system, the improved transport link or the better reports all start life with the belief of solving a problem and making a bad situation perfect.


That is until the hard realities of budget and other resources hit home. No matter what size your project or what budget you have; whether it’s a multi-million pound overhaul of a legacy IT system at an international corporation or the renovation of a holiday cottage.


Striving for perfection in many ways is a good trait to possess but the pace of progress in businesses is now so rapid that to seek perfection on a project can mean to lose out on business opportunities. Consider pretty much any type of technology gadget – any manufacturer who seeks perfection before going to market with a new product is likely to be left behind in the race. And those, like Apple, who get their products out there and gain market share can then produce enhanced versions of the original products to consolidate their customer base.


But it is important to understand the difference between perfection and excellence in projects.


Perfection involves endless tweaking of the plans, the schedule, the deliverables and the end product. Seeking perfection is almost guaranteed to push you over budget and past the deadline.


Excellence, on the other hand, does not mean that you abandon all forms of project management techniques; it means that you plan the project well, monitor it closely, make changes when you have to but all with the underlying aim to deliver what the customer wants on time and at an acceptable cost. Striving for excellence rather than perfection in your projects can help an innovative product or service to beat the competition to market – a key factor in business success  in today’s fast-paced technology-driven market.


Every element of the final product does not have to be without fault – trying to achieve a faultless product can lead to the product never seeing the light of day. And a typical problem with the approach of seeking perfection is that the tweaks may never be noticed by the end-user. So a project does not need to be perfect to be a success but it does need to be well-executed and fit for purpose.


The one proviso being that there are certain types of project that do require a rigorous project management approach: those that involve producing, for example, life-saving medical equipment or jet engines for aeroplanes.


Have you ever been involved in a project where striving for perfection simply served to delay the project? Why not share your experience with us?