Nothing is more terrifying than a blank page.
Putting out rough ideas is scary on an individual level, but what happens if that paralysis affects your entire team? When the team begins to raise standards to the point that everyone is afraid to fail? This level of perfectionism can do more harm than good.
Acknowledging this is great, but how do you fix it? By lowering the proverbial bar. No matter what kind of team you have or how they think, quantity and quality can be achieved when expectations around idea generation and production are clear — perfection is not required; delivery is. Get messy!
Degrees of Done & Motivating Teams
Motivating teams to move past perfectionism doesn’t have to be difficult. Defining “degrees of done” sets clear expectations about levels of refinement, and about the need to deliver something even if it’s not perfect. They say there’s no such thing as a bad idea (not true), but no idea is far worse. As Seth Godin says, you’ve got to ship.
Here are some degrees of done that can help you get things moving:
When you ask for a “Post-it note” level of production, you’re asking for an idea.
It can fit on a post-it, and it does not have to be ready for prime time. This is an idea, a thought, an approach, or maybe a few of each. It could have been conceived in an idle moment but may never have been written down. It can be conveyed in less than a minute, and it probably stars with, “What if we…”
Example: Will you put together a few thoughts on a PR strategy before Thursday? Just a Post-it.
This one is my personal favorite.
It’s not actually a plan, but it’s the beginning of one. It’s a bulleted list (or whatever) of organized ideas and information that are ready for immediate refinement by you, someone else, or the group.
The Bulleted List allows you to test the idea and find out whether it stands up to intellectual scrutiny (and possibly a five-minute Google search). It very well may be the final idea. The information can be conveyed in 2-3 minutes, and supports deeper discussion.
Example: Great idea on the PR Strategy! Will you put together a Bulleted List for our team meeting?
The next logical step, the Draft will include fleshed-out ideas and incorporate context. It’s casual, but it could be shared with professionals outside the organization. It’s the working document. The information could be conveyed verbally in 5 minutes or so, but really it should be read and digested. It could be handed to another person for refinement of ideas — it has enough information and context that it can stand on its own, but it’s not a Document yet.
Example: We’re ready to take that PR strategy to the next level. Can you make a Draft by Thursday so we can review in our one-on-one meeting?
The real work has been done; at this point we’re progressing to a strategic representation of the idea or plan that is ready for formal delivery. The content has been vetted, design has been applied, and it can stand on its own.
Example: The PR plan Draft looks great. Let’s get this in front of Jane when she’s in on Monday and ask her to approve the budget. Can you have a Document ready?
The content will be similar to (or the same as) what you’d find in a Document, but a Presentation incorporates more visual elements (and takes longer to create!). Information should be presented clearly and in concise, digestible chunks.
Example: Jane loved the Document and wants to get the plan in front of the board next month. Let’s get a Presentation together so they can approve her decision in the meeting.
Perfectionism is not always the best approach; getting your team to understand this will help them produce amazing work. After all, that’s why we’re here.
About the Author: Tanya Korpi Macleod is the founder of Minneapolis-based Macleod & Co. After more than 25 years of marketing and advertising experience in the U.S. and Europe, Tanya noticed that chasm that often exists between an organization’s theoretical marketing “plan” and its realistic ability to execute it. This led her to pioneer in the concept of “holistic marketing,” which redefines marketing as the complete process of bringing a product, service or company from inception to maximum ongoing profitability. Her mission is to show organizational leaders that a holistic mindset not only promotes a healthier culture, but a more profitable business.