CEO Coaching: Sometimes Good Enough Is Enough!

A recent piece on Colorado Public Radio about the aerospace industry caught my ear. Apparently, 500 companies focused on aerospace reside in Colorado. Mildly interesting, but what was more insightful came from the perspective of Justin Cyrus, the founder of Lunar Outpost. He had a beautiful explanation of why small companies can compete with larger ones.

He pointed out that NASA rovers sent to outer space cost billions of dollars, partially because they’re designed to have a 99.999% chance of success. His perspective? You can build potentially hundreds of rovers for the same price if you can accept an 80% success rate.

Applying this principle to companies large and small is huge. Some CEOs whom I coach tire of hearing me say “shoot for success, not perfection,” and this is a good reason. Whether you’re designing a rover, a consumer product, or a new training program, you’re usually best off doing a good job, testing, and then improving than you are trying to create perfection before launch. Shoot for success and do more.

“Five nines” (99.999%) availability is a common phrase for desired server uptime, and it’s achievable. However, the cost of applying that mindset to most parts of most businesses is catastrophic! With that mindset, few new products would hit the market. No new employees would be hired. No new recipes from your favorite restaurant. I’d never be able to fly-fish again!

Tolerating mediocrity isn’t a good business practice. However, knowing which parts of your business can produce 90% success rates versus those that would be fortunate to produce 50% is important. 

You can’t win every sales call, please every customer, or make every acquisition give you a sky-high return on investment. Set aside time to articulate your expectations for different parts of your business. Either too high or too low can cause poor performance and frustration. 

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