When is ‘Good’ good enough?

~ Originally published on Say “Alaka‘i”
June 2009 ~
When is ‘Good’ good enough?


No Going Back

As you read last time, (Can you define your Leadership Greatness?) I like making a practical difference between ‘good’ and ‘great’ just as much as I enjoy working with the pragmatic differences between management and leadership. Alaka‘i leaders are tenacious in their pursuit of greatness, for they know that nothing less will do in a world overcrowded by mediocrity.

However I don’t want you to discount ‘good’-ness totally: Good can be good enough, and there is an acronym I learned a couple of years back from Employee Engagement expert David Zinger that has served me well in that reminder. David taught it to me as GEMO, which stands for “Good Enough, Move On.” As David explained, GEMO “helps avoid perfectionism, dithering, delays, and other productivity traps and snarls.” GEMO can be a great tonic for any analysis paralysis or obstinate behavior which might trip us up.

We all want Progressive Work

When you really think about it, most of us will not bemoan hard work. Working up “a good sweat” is thought of as worth the effort it takes —when we see or feel results follow. What irritates us is stalled work, or those efforts which seem to be repetitive without going anywhere or producing anything. We aren’t satisfied or fulfilled when the work we do isn’t progressive; instead, we feel frustrated.

Remember our Alaka‘i management definition? “Management is the workplace discipline of channeling mission-critical energy into optimal production and usefulness.”

Frustration is one of the biggest energy-drainers there is. Alaka‘i managers know this, and as they walk through a workplace their frustration radar is on high alert ”“ it’s part of that respect for people’s time and effort we spoke of last time. When they notice people getting frustrated in any way the Alaka‘i manager will zoom in and ask what they can do to help.

So what is ‘GEMO good?’

“Good enough” means that stepped-it-up progress has been made and you can now “Move on” in some way within the process you’ve set your sights on completing.

Every operations and systems-thinking person on the planet will likely think that’s a pretty loaded sentence, and I agree —it certainly is. It is also highly contextual: Good enough in ABC company may not necessarily be good enough in XYZ company, or at all related (apples versus oranges), for it depends on the vision that the mission-critical process is trying to achieve. The reason I asked you to do some in-writing definition this past Tuesday, is because your definition of greatness matters BIG time. It has to sync up to your energy-creating, highly meaningful vision. If you pull it out now to read it, you should instantly see your contextual connections to different workplace processes.

A useful metaphor

I’m a late-in-life learner to the game of Chess, and I happened to learn it at the same time I was struggling to understand my contextual GEMO in one of my own company projects last year. The project was new; we’d never done it before, and so we couldn’t rely on historical learning from our past mistakes or successes. We were creating something new, and the best marker for our sights was forward to our vision.

Chess was a very useful metaphor for me at the time, for as I learned more about the game I could tell that I would never improve much if I did not learn to think two or three moves ahead: If I stayed stuck in single-move thinking I would never win a single game unless my opponent happened to fall asleep at the game board.

To win at Chess means moving with baby-step progress. Moving any other way is just stalling, and your opponent knows it.

GEMO to your workplace win with Conversation

Systems work and process management is everyone’s business in every workplace. Alaka‘i managers don’t have all the answers, but they channel the energies it takes to come up with them, and the easiest way you can do that is by being a conversation starter.

Those who are closest to the work at hand will always describe it in the most detail. What great managers can do in the service they provide to the team, is slightly shift the normal conversation about work so that it is more expansive ”“ stretchy enough to welcome in open-minded new thinking and fresh ideas.

The GEMO conversation shift is about movement and progress. Get your team together in a huddle, and talk story to pool your answers. When you break down a work process you are presently working within, when is there movement and progress, and when does it stall and seem repetitive?

Let’s talk story.
Any thoughts to share?


Photo credit: No Going Back by Mariano Kamp.

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