Over my working and consulting life I have worked on many projects with complicated timelines, interconnected activities and many stakeholders. Successful outcomes were dependent on tight planning, budgeting and meeting project briefs.
While we don’t all work on complicated projects, modern organisations seem more frenetic and everyone I talk to is feeling time pressure. We are bombarded with information, changing landscapes, deadlines, projects and personal challenges that if not managed can take us over the edge.
Thinking in ‘Degrees of Completion’ and not degrees of perfection is a way of releasing some of the pressure and giving yourself a break when needed.
I discovered the concept of degrees of completion when I was attending university to study my MBA. I was working full time in a senior management role with a young family and commuting long hours to work. Although wanting to finish my Masters with honours I soon realised that with so many priorities some of my perfection would have to get a dose of reality.
I started to break down my conflicting priorities and realised that, completing each step of the plan, actually got me closer to the end result, and if not perfect they were quite acceptable.
A great example was when planning assignments, I would normally research, then read and take notes, type up my notes and organise the information, followed by one or two drafts and formatting.
Although I would be concentrating on the ultimate deadline, I realise that after completing each step or iteration of the assignment, I had actually achieved something that would probably get me marks. At each degree of completion, the prospects of better marks grew but if something happened for whatever reason and I never got back to it then I still had something to show the Professor.
This way of thinking released a lot of pressure and soon I started to enjoy my study more. I also realised I was concentrating more on core outcomes which was to learn about business.
Most of the tasks we do every day have ‘Degrees of Completion’. We often think that if the end result is not perfect (or our perception of perfect) then we haven’t succeeded.
Understand your primary goals and what you are really trying to achieve.
If it’s a report for the board, know what needs to be included and how the figures reported. Research and collate the data and graph it. If it doesn’t look pretty at this stage don’t fret – your primary goal has been reached. If your world falls apart around you tomorrow at least the board gets the figures.
There are many examples I could include but right now I want you to think of all the projects you have for your board roles and give yourself a break by assessing how complete they are.