Creative LeadershipCreativity

When Excellence Kills

Excellence is a wonderful thing.  It establishes your organization or project as a quality effort.  It enhances your reputation, and helps create a legacy.  It creates brand equity.  I’m a big believer in excellence.  However, as Seth Godin likes to say, “You eventually have to ship.”  At some point, your product or idea needs to move to the next level.   I used to work with a Lighting Director on a television show.  He was amazingly talented and would do whatever it took to make the scene look fantastic.  The problem was, he could never finish.  He was so obsessed with excellence, he could never stop tweaking.  After standing around for hours waiting for him, I would literally have to chase him off the set in order to shoot a scene.

I admired his desire to make the scene look perfect, but after a year or so, I finally had to fire him.  After all – we were working with a budget, and I had to eventually film the scenes and move on.  After awhile he developed a reputation for being so obsessed with a quality look he became a drag on every project he worked on.  Today, he’s hardly working at all.

Excellence is wonderful.  But never forget that you eventually have to ship.  The scene has to shoot.  You’ve got to deliver.

Ever seen that played out in your life?

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3 Comments

  1. I think we get paralyzed by the pursuit of PERFECTION, but we can ship EXCELLENCE. Not sure it’s excellence that is the problem. We pursue perfection, but ship excellence. It can be done well and done right, even though it’s not perfect. It seems to be Apple’s biz model, and it works

  2. A creative pastor I once worked with preached the standard of excellence to his support staff and volunteers. What he really meant was perfection. Perfection is many times expressed through criticism of others or self. His expressed disappointment in the staff and volunteers made productions tense. Volunteers were intimidated, staff anxious which counteracted creativity. Rarely was anything perfect enough, no matter how hard one tried. Criticism can kill when driven to achieving perfection, and it will kill moral.  Excellence is doing something to the very best of your ability. Excellence is always on time.   

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