Robert N. Phillips
CEO, Lasotell Pty Ltd.

This catchy little quotation comes from “Microsoft Project 98 for Dummies” by Martin Doucette. He goes on to say, “By this he

[the business friend who made the statement] means that if something is important enough to accomplish, it needs to be completed even if it falls short of perfection.” The flip-side saying is: “There is never enough time to do it right but there is always enough time to do it over.”

The sad part about these two sayings is that they are rapidly becoming the norm in many business environments. The push toward self-funded superannuation (known in the US as pension funds or 401Ks) has created (at least in Australia) an environment where the financial institutions are vying for everyone’s contribution dollar by talking about the magical returns on investment their company can provide. This in turn leads the investment companies to be very harsh in the marketplace when any of the investments in their portfolio do not perform at better than the last published return. They whip their money out of the poor performer with the speed of summer lightening and throw it at a more promising conductor of high returns.

Inevitably, the publicly listed companies are constantly driving costs down any way they can, rushing products to the market in the shortest possible time and hounding the sales staff to sell, sell, sell, so that the next profit announcement will keep the shareholders (the investment companies) satisfied. Which brings us to the new de facto operating approach in the title of this article.

In conjunction with this new harem-scarum approach, the horizon for “strategic” anything now has a time frame of less than one year.

Therefore, if you are asked to do a job for a company or a manager operating in this manner, rule #1 is to make sure you know the quality standard expected for the job. The quick way to determine it is to listen to the “requirements,” ask when the job is due, and then start to explain how all proper jobs require 30% for planning and 60% for doing. Right about there you will start to see nervous twitches and sweat dripping on the other side of the table or desk. Now you have to wrestle with all the principles and standards you have learned over the years, and you have to determine whether you should be doing the job, or if you have no choice, decide how many hours you are prepared to work to do it right regardless.

The companies that subscribe to best practices are clearly not falling for the shortsighted approach of The Innocent, The Eager, and The Doomed. But the question is what can we do, should we do, as exponents of best practices, when we encounter such driven souls? What is the best practice for the business? Whose business? And what is the best practice for oneself (whether employee or contractor)?

In our organisation, we have worked with clients of all persuasions. (One of the most interesting points is to observe just how often PowerPoint is the preparation tool of choice. It seems the authors feel that by using PowerPoint, they are absolved from any errors or blunders, because it is not a formal document produced in Word!) Leaving the tools aside, because they do not set the quality standard, we took a decision two years ago to take Silly (as in requests to do jobs in silly time frames) “off the menu.” It certainly caused a change in our client mix—we are doing more work for people who only have time to do it right the first time. We still have to work hard, but we enjoy it a whole lot more because best practices work!