I’ll preface this by saying that I am not a perfectionist, although I have perfectionist tendencies. Sure, I’m the kind of guy whose bed is made every morning, whose desk is clean every afternoon, and whose handwriting looks like it belongs to an architect rather than the CEO of a 22-year-old information technology practice. But I am not a perfectionist.
In fact, I think that perfection is one of life's great white buffalos: rarely seen, remarkably elusive, and wholly unsustainable when captured. And I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but you’ve been fooled into thinking perfection is something that’s achievable. If you only tried hard enough; if you only worked long enough; if you were only persistent enough, it could have been perfect. It’s not perfection you want, though—it’s precision.
My Ah-Ha Moment
I’d like to take you back to the dewy slopes of Denver a few weeks ago, where I had this realization.
I was leading one of our CATAPULT workshops, a two-day workshop that teaches business leaders the importance of documenting and sharing process and workflow. Here is what I know to be true.
Most companies clearly grasp what they want—perfection—yet they focus on the results they wish to achieve instead of the processes (or the lack thereof) that drive the accuracy of those results. This is a flawed way of thinking that tends to produce anger and resentment due to bad decisions based on inaccurate metrics. It’s kind of like not caring about dinner and being focused solely on dessert, only to find that you’ve forgotten to add the sugar.
In most cases, those processes either don't exist or they are withheld inside the minds of a few key stakeholders—also known as the most dangerous place in the world. At this point I know I've hit a nerve because here is what happens next: I will hear the phrase, "Our PSA, CRM, ERP, or RMM system is supposed to do this for us, but it is too complicated." Then of course is the popular follow up, "And don't get me started about the training videos that teach me nothing and don't even focus on my business."
Sound familiar? Far from perfection, right? It is not entirely your fault. Our mobile culture has perpetuated a bit of this madness. After all, you can pay a few bucks for an app and instantly download it to your phone. If you can't master the app in say, 5 minutes, it's trash and gets removed from your device. I find that most companies draw unfair comparisons between the ease of a mobile app and their line of business applications. The similarities, though, really stop at the point of classifying them both as software applications.
Shifting Away from "Perfection"
Here is how you get back on the rails. First, you must have situational awareness. In other words, what is going on and how can you accurately measure it. The absence of situational awareness leads to gaping holes that are filled with assumptions… the kiss of death in any service organization.
Second, you have to understand and accept the role of the software companies. They are kind of like car dealers, and I don't mean that in a negative way. They "sell you the car" and "service your car." They will shake your hand, tell you they appreciate your business, and point to the glove box where the manual lives, which will tell you about the online videos, free oil changes and service hours. And finally, you do what everyone else does: you drive off the lot.
Now, show of hands here: how many people learn how to drive from the car dealer? Answer = none. You learned from a parent, an uncle, a sibling, or a professional instructor. I know… it just clicked in your head. Somewhere along the way, people expected software companies to "teach them how to drive." Or, in most cases, people just assumed they could figure it out on their own. The software companies don't really know your business like you know your business; they know their software. As a result, we have a lot of "bad software drivers" who don't begin to leverage the features and capabilities of their "software vehicles." It really isn't the software's fault. Lack of process is the culprit.
Now we get to the final piece, and try this with me here. Remove the word "perfection" from your vocabulary and substitute it with "precision." Strike the phrases “we are driven to achieve perfection" or "striving for perfection" and instead say, "we are driven by precision."
The Difference Between Perfection and Precision
Perfection by its own definition implies it is a destination—a place you are not allowed to stay. Period. Precision is different. Processes and workflows are built around precision. Precision can send you towards perfection, but not the other way around.
Precision is all about repeatable consistency, refined through knowledge and experience. It’s the fuel in the engine that drives your managed services recurring revenue model and your customer relationships.
Abandon your search for perfection, embrace precision, and most importantly, get yourself signed up for some driving lessons! Remember, your PSA, CRM, or ERP software is not complicated; it is sophisticated. You will not install it on a Friday and go live on Monday. Moreover, it makes up 25% of the precision container. That's it. 75% is business process and workflow; the essential ingredients to produce accurate and measurable results. And those results will enable you to make appropriate and empowering decisions that will inspire you, your people and your customers to achieve greatness through precision, not perfection.
Interested in learning more about how MSPs can streamline business processes and ultimately improve customer retention? Tune in to this podcast episode!
By Carlos Borges
By Ray Vrabel