KaiNexus Education Video #11: Perfect vs. Good


Note: Our next free KaiNexus webinar will be held on Tuesday, October 28: “Daily Management with KaiNexus: From Huddle Boards to Web-Based Technology.” Register today to hear me and Dr. Greg Jacobson share our experiences and stories from our customers.

About two years ago, we produced some short two- to three-minute education videos about Lean, Kaizen, and continuous improvement for KaiNexus. These were intended as short coaching sessions that would be sent to our customers / users and we've also shared them publicly.

Here is video #11 in the series, with me:

Perfect vs Good

Dr. Greg Jacobson and I re-shot these videos recently with a professional videographer. The changes with the videos:

  • Greg is now in half of the videos
  • The scripts were changed to be less healthcare specific, as we've added customers in other industries
  • The video quality is much better

I previously did blog posts with the first ten videos. Those posts are still there, but they have the new versions of the videos. Click here to see all of the videos through my blog or here to view them on the KaiNexus website.

We hope you find the videos to be helpful and inspiring. Please let us know what you think by commenting here or on one of the videos.

You can also see our Education Videos playlist on YouTube, or you can also get the videos via iTunes as a video podcast.

Approximate Transcript:

Hi, I'm Mark Graban, from KaiNexus, where we make improvement happen

There's an old expression that gets used alot in quality improvement work: Don't let perfect be the enemy of good. People, in almost every industry, often put pressure on themselves to keep thinking about the solution until they come up with something that solves the problem 100% with absolute certainty… but solutions like that usually don't exist.

Don't get paralyzed – it's OK to implement an idea that moves us in the right direction… some improvement is better than none. We often have to implement multiple improvements, building upon our ideas, to get closer to a perfect overall solution.

In one example, a hospital was trying to improve privacy for nursing mothers in the NICU. Instead of finding one silver bullet solution, they had many small ideas that pushed them in the right direction.

After making sure curtains got closed more consistently and putting up signs, the curtains still had some gaps that would open up as people walked by… so they implemented another idea – getting simple binder clips to keep the curtains closed… and then they improved the way the clips were stored… all of these different improvements added up to a nearly perfect overall solution.

Many people don't realize it, but Apple is a long time practitioner of continuous improvement.  They are known for modern and stylish packaging, but they didn't create awesome packaging all at once.  They have made (and continue to make ) hundreds of small, incremental improvements to their materials and processes  – which resulted in some of world's most innovative packaging.

As we improve processes, we certainly want to understand the root cause of a problem and to think through our proposed solutions before we test them.  We think of continuous improvement as a test because we're usually not 100% sure they will work as expected… we don't want to just rush into improvement without having a well-thought out hypothesis to test… but we don't want the other extreme of being so careful that we never implement anything.

We should keep in mind improvement work is a never-ending journey… so sometimes you have to just start moving in the right direction.


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  1. Randy Siever says

    Thanks for sharing, Mark. Seems like there’s a middle ground between accepting mediocrity/current state (“good enough”) and being frozen by perfection. Kind of like the “no problem is a problem” quote, there are really several layers to the ideas of good vs perfection in an improvement discussion, all worth contemplating.

    One of my colleagues used to talk about getting version 1 of an idea out there for testing. It really helped me not overcomplicate/overanalyze before we had actually tried anything.

    1. Mark Graban says

      Randy – I agree it’s a middle ground. In Kaizen, we’re following the Plan-Do-Study-Adjust model that includes incremental improvement. I’m often coaching people by saying “let’s make it better, we don’t have to make it perfect.” If we’re trying to make it perfect, there’s a tendency to Plan forever, to talk about it forever. I’d rather see somebody take a start and get the ball rolling… make it better and we’ll make it even better from there.

      Version 1, then 1.1, then maybe Version 2…. continuous improvement (and continuous testing of ideas).

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