Employing Differences

Employing Differences, Episode 35: How good does this need to be?

January 12, 2021 Karen Gimnig & Paul Tevis
Employing Differences
Employing Differences, Episode 35: How good does this need to be?
Chapters
Employing Differences
Employing Differences, Episode 35: How good does this need to be?
Jan 12, 2021
Karen Gimnig & Paul Tevis

"I think we've all had the experience of working in a group on something where at least one member of the group is ready to move on. We're going, 'Yep, this is good enough. We're ready to go. We can move on to something else.' And at least one other member of the group says, 'No, we can't move on yet. We still need to work on this stuff. There's more things that we need to do.' And navigating those situations can be a real challenge."

Listen on the website and read the transcript

Watch this episode on YouTube

Show Notes Transcript

"I think we've all had the experience of working in a group on something where at least one member of the group is ready to move on. We're going, 'Yep, this is good enough. We're ready to go. We can move on to something else.' And at least one other member of the group says, 'No, we can't move on yet. We still need to work on this stuff. There's more things that we need to do.' And navigating those situations can be a real challenge."

Listen on the website and read the transcript

Watch this episode on YouTube

Paul:

Welcome to Employing Differences, a conversation about exploring the collaborative space between individuals.

Karen:

I'm Karen Gimnig.

Paul:

And I'm Paul Tevis.

Karen:

Each episode, we start with a question and see where it takes us. This week's question is, "How good does this need to be?"

Paul:

I think we've all had the experience of working in a group on something where at least one member of the group is ready to move on. We're going, "Yep, this is good enough. We're ready to go. We can move on to something else." And at least one other member of the group says, "No, we can't move on yet. We still need to work on this stuff. There's more things that we need to do." And navigating those situations can be a real challenge. Because just from a practical standpoint, we have limited time. When groups are working together, they have a limited amount of time to accomplish all of the things that they need to do. And so figuring out, when we can move on to something else, when we need to stay with the particular thing that we're working on, is largely about answering the question of "How good does it need to be?" Can we move on? Do we need to stay with this? Both Karen and I have had some experiences recently working with groups that are struggling with this, or being part of groups that are struggling with this. So we wanted to dig in a little bit. So Karen, what are things that you notice and are able to help groups with when they're struggling in this kind of way?

Karen:

So I think one of the things I noticed is a fallacy, which is, "It's not good enough until it's as good as we can make it." Right. So if the question is, "If we keep working on this, will it get better?" Very often, the answer is yes. Not always. But there may be a time when it's like it's not getting better, we should just stop. That's a different problem. But I think the more tricky place is, it is getting better, the longer we work on this, and five of us are sitting around the table. And if we spent another half hour, this thing would be better half an hour from now than it is now. But would it be five times half an hour, two and a half person hours worth of resource better. Is the amount that it's better or worse the amount of resources it takes to make it better? And I think we tend to not to ask ourselves that question, which is another version of "How good does this need to be?" So being willing to say, our resources are not well-spent getting to that level of precision, or that level of quality, or that whatever that might be. And being discerning about when there really is something left that is significant and would make a significant difference, and when now we're just tweaking and the tweaks, while they are improvements, are not improvements worth the time it takes to make them.

Paul:

One of the things that groups often lose sight of when they're working on something, "Is what comes next?" What is the thing that they're not working on, because they're working on this? And oftentimes the because that's the the trade off, right? By continuing to work on this thing, by polishing it, by making it better, we are not spending that time, that effort on whatever the next thing we would be doing is or some other thing that we would be doing, which might actually be more important or more valuable. Certainly, you know, spending a half an hour on this that we're working on right now will add some amount of value. And spending a half an hour on the other thing might add even more value. And so that's often one of the things that when I'm working with groups when I was internal in a software development organization, teams had the ability to sort of decide, "When are we done with this particular product or feature or thing, and we want to move on to the next one? And when are we going to stay with it?" But what we were always doing during that, as we started to feel we're getting to that point, is making them aware of what the next thing is, and how it might be valuable so they could make an informed decision about whether or not it's worth it to continue to spend time and effort on the current thing. Or we want to move on to the next thing.

Karen:

Yeah, and I do think your opening point about how we don't tend to have agreement about this, that usually one person is ready to move on another person... The point at which we're ready to move on is not the same for all people, I guess is the way to say that. And in many groups, particularly those who are really working in a cooperative culture kind of basis, the tendency is, "Well, someone else still wants to work on it, I'm not going to be the one who says 'no.'" I'm not going to be the one who sort of shuts them down or you know, it feels like if if you're the one who wants to keep working, and I say, you know, "I really don't think this is a good use of our time," that that's the same as saying, "I don't care what you think, and your thoughts don't matter to me." We translate it that way. And so that's another one of those fallacies that we really want to work through. That to say, "I don't think this is a good use of our collective time," is the same as saying, "I don't value the opinion that hasn't been said yet". Or the person belonging to the opinion that hasn't been said yet. Developing a culture where we can say, "Hey, this is getting better, your input is valuable." And you know, and I'm often in one of my roles in a position where I'm leading the meeting, where I brought the things I'm in a more staff role. So I brought the draft, and I'm leading the meeting, and it falls on me to say, "Pkay, I've gotten all the input I want from you all, like we need to move on, because we've got other things." And my instinct is to say, I don't want to shut them down. I don't like I'm overusing my power. But what I find is that if I'm willing to say that directly, everybody sort of takes a sigh of relief and goes, right, this doesn't have to be so perfect. And what are the key points. I was in a meeting where we were doing that just this morning, and somebody said, "So here's the feedback, I want. Don't wordsmith it. Here, go." So there was a way to move through where they felt heard. And the changes would get made, probably not to the level of precision that would have been if we'd spent another hour working on it, but to a level that wasn't a match for the value of the work.

Paul:

There's a important point about recognizing what actually needs to be done collectively and what doesn't need to be. If you go back to our episode recently on delegation, on how your hand stuff off to subgroups effectively and ineffectively, I think there's a lot of useful things in there. But one of the things I want to point at is, those two things. The first one is, it's really valuable if before you start, you can actually figure out what does good enough look like. Alright, so if we actually have agreement about how will we know when we've gotten to a good enough point, that can make that conversation easier. Of course, with a lot of work, you don't really know what that point is, until you have started to dig into it. So when groups start to feel like they're getting stuck on something you know, I'm often working with groups where they've asked me to facilitate something and we've got time boxes. We have time allocated for this thing. So great. We've got 20 minutes set aside to do this. And I've worked with them to figure out what do we think the outcome we're trying to get there is, and if I notice that they're starting to spin on that, as we start to get to the end of that, I'll say, "It seems like we're spending more time on this than we thought we were going to need to. How would we know that we've achieved good enough on this?" Like just ask the question in the moment. The funny thing is, sometimes people will say, "Well, we think it already is." And you're like, great, we're done. But it feels like we get these weird cues from other people that make it seem like we're supposed to keep working on it. We're not sure. So just even asking, you know, "How would we know we're done? How would we know that we've gotten good enough?" I think can be valuable. But I there's also the really tricky spot. And I found myself in this recently. So my business partner and I were launching our website. And there's a lot we have very different authorial voices let me say. That when we write we write in very different ways. And so it was the sort of thing where when we were doing the copy for the website, it was hard for us to do it separately. It was also hard for us to do it together. And it really was the kind of thing where there were times when he was like, "Yeah, this is good enough, we can move on." And I'm like, "I'm putting my name on this. This is a reflection of who I am. This is part of who I'm putting out into the world." Because marketing and branding are very much that way. And so there were pieces where I wasn't yet comfortable putting my name on stuff, and so I wasn't willing to move on. And I think those are the moments where it's really tricky. I struggle even in those moments to figure out how how would I know that this is good enough?

Karen:

Yeah, and I think you're you're pointing to like there's the the two sides of it, where sometimes the alternate voice so in your case, you're saying, "I'm not done yet." That the benefit is that that voice slows it down enough to make it what it needs to be. And that's a huge benefit. And sometimes the voice that says really, "It is good enough," is the thing that sort of settles the anxiety and filters out the perfectionism and some of those other things that can keep us holding on to, you know, what does it have to be. I just finished co-authoring a book and had a similar kind of experience as going through the copy-editing, and looking for the missing comma, and not quite, you know, like, that wasn't bold, when it should have been and those kinds of things. And my co-author was actually not very interested in that work. And what she said to me was, it's not gonna change the value. If there's a missing comma, it's not like the book loses its value. In my head I was in the both-and of, but if there's enough missing commas, like, then it's distracting and it doesn't work, and it's not effective. But also, like it does just need to get done. And the fact that we're hopefully going to print thousands of these things over time needs to not disrupt my ability to judge how thoroughly and how deeply and how many times do I want to go through and do the editing and, if you're hearing this, as someone who's read the book and found many typos, then feel free to just sort of tell me I got the balance wrong. So far that hasn't happened.

Paul:

I mean, one of the things we've come back to a lot is that there's never enough time to do all the things that you want to do. So it's about discernment. It's about deciding, in this moment, does it make sense to continue working on this together collectively? Like one of the places that that my partner and I came to is that there were spots eventually, where it's just like, "Look, we have a deadline, that actually makes a lot of sense. We really need to have this thing out by this particular date, because of these various concerns. I'm okay with going live with what we've got. And also, I'm going to circle back around on this." We're going to come back, we're going to revisit it, we're going to revise it, this isn't forever. But for now, the appropriate decision in this moment is to move on, because of what's coming next, because of the other things that we need to do it. "How good does it need to be?" I would love it if it were better. And for now, it's good enough.

Karen:

And I love the way you're pointing to the nuance of this. Sort of as we close out this episode of there are lots of variations on how we go with this. And the ones we're pointing to avoiding are the assumption that the very best we can make it is the correct answer. But challenge that assumption and ask ourselves, do we want to put in the time and resources? Are they worthwhile for that goal? And to be able to weigh that against the varying elements that are going into it,

like:

What can happen next? What are the needs of each individual? What are the needs of the team? What are the voices of each telling us about what we need to pay attention to and where we are? And if we put all of that together with a great deal of discernment, we're likely to make better use of our time.

Paul:

It sounds so simple when you put it that way. And it is simple, but it's not easy. So I think that's going to do it for us for today. Until next time, I'm Paul Tevis.

Karen:

And I'm Karen Gimnig, and this has been Employing Differences.