In principle, it’s really good to be able to say, “We did the best we could with the time, tools and information that we had.” Notice the past tense. We DID something, even with limited resources. Many groups get stuck and fail to achieve anything because they don’t have enough time, tools, or information to make as good or as big a decision as they would like.
Actually, groups never have enough time, tools or information to make perfect decisions. The trick is to do the best you can with what you have rather than be stuck while waiting or wishing for more resources.
By the way, to do “the best we could” does not mean “the most we could.” Often, less is best. Doing our best is usually about quality, not quantity.
Practical Tip: If you start to fall short of a deadline, honor the deadline anyway, perhaps even with a lesser product or service. Pushing off a deadline once or twice for good reason is fine, but repeatedly missing deadlines to achieve perfection often just results in missed deadlines and stalled projects. Honoring deadlines with lesser achievements is at least progress in the right direction and helps us learn along the way.
When others fall short of deadlines or other expectations, give them a break. One’s ability to achieve is always related to one’s blessings and burdens. I once heard someone say, “My mom did the best she could with the tools and information that she had.”
– Craig Freshley
Click here for one-page PDF of this Tip, a great way to print or share.
7 thoughts on “Best we could with what we had”
Good Tip, I have seen this too often. Groups that have failed to achieve goals or get their plans formulated because they never believed they have enough information or resources to start toward their goals.
I still so enjoy getting these. Not only are they practical and helpful, I feel still connected in a kind of way.
Yours is always the voice of sanity and self-compassion, Craig. I appreciate these tips so much, and they always seem to come just at the right time!
Thanks for this timely tip. I needed to hear it. I’m at the end of a book project and want it to be perfect, but now I think I’ll prioritize the deadline rather than the illusory desire for perfection.
Nice version of what Norm Kerth uses in the retrospective facilitator community and is know there as the “Prime Directive” http://www.retrospectives.com/pages/retroPrimeDirective.html
Great link, Gerard. I also like his “four questions”: http://www.retrospectives.com/pages/RetrospectiveKeyQuestions.html
* What did we do well, that if we don’t discuss we might forget?
* What did we learn?
* What should we do differently next time?
* What still puzzles us?
Would like to see those sitting gently unobtrusively up on the wall during any meeting retrospective.
One municipal official critiqued operations analysis saying something like, “We don’t try to optimize our decisions, we just do the best we can.”
The key is being explicit about the criteria by which you determine you have reached an optimum. Time and effort are usually among the criteria if implicit.