Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Enough is the best

MUJI logoImage via Wikipedia
Is 'Enough' the new 'Best'? That is the question asked by Idris Mootee on Blogging Innovation this morning. I have long been a proponent of "good enough" for business processes, which would be probably taken out of context in a sound bite, so don't quote me quite yet.

Mootee discusses the Muji stores in Japan, the non-brand brand that espouses the idea that as consumers there is stuff we need and want to buy, but why do we have to be forced into believing that one label makes a product better than another? Brands are there to do this, without adding any value to the actual thing that is being bought. 

Unfortunately business improvement strategies have taken the branded non-value add approach. We have branded our business improvement methodologies, Lean and Six-Sigma are two common examples, to add caché. Hell, we even retained the Japanese-named concepts that came out of the manufacturing philosophies that don't always translate well into western thinking, because it makes the approach sound cool. What, after all, is wrong with translating concepts into plain English to make them accessible to a wider audience, rather than forcing people to buy expensive training and textbooks?

Strangely enough, despite maintaining a significant amount of branding to make its concepts sound bigger than sometimes they are, Lean really does follow the concept of 'enough is enough'. Maybe not 'enough is best', but knowing when to stop to avoid wasting effort in removing wasteful activities from your business processes. So, going back to my likely to be quoted out of context quote, "good enough" really has some value. The question is, do you want to spend money making one process that is performed close to perfect when the rest of your business needs some serious fixing? It is like seeing a house with a beautiful kitchen complete with granite and stainless steel, but the stairs leading up to the bedrooms are collapsing. 

Small and medium-sized businesses should be especially sensitive to this pursuit of perfection in their processes. There is typically not spare cash to be invested in business improvement. Surprisingly, sometimes the best way to get bang for the buck is to do several things at once. Make sure you reach a milestone where the work done on a project is useful, but have enough measurable objectives in place to understand which of the simultaneous projects is really going to achieve what you want. Your understanding of what is important changes as your processes improve. 

Like branding, sometimes a single laser-like focus on one project ends up dragging you into a endless cycle of polishing and perfection. Mootee may be right, at least in my view: "Enough" is the new "Best". You can quote me on that.

A post from the Improving It blog
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