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Above and beyond - or Just good enough?

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Mark SuszkoAbove and beyond - or Just good enough?
by on May 27, 2014 at 6:03:16 pm

I've had some fun discussing this article lately.

My own reaction is that when I decide to go above and beyond on something, I'm doing it as much for myself, as I am for a client or boss. Expressing mastery of something is good for the ego. Pushing boundaries of excellence can reveal new, more efficient ways to do something. Even when it doesn't get me anything extra, choosing to push further keeps me sane. I couldn't imagine doing the job this long with an attitude of "perform just well enough to not get fired". I really do believe in the Maslovian hierarchy and it's implications in the workaday world.

The article says that the best time to deploy an all-out effort is when it isn't expected and on a project where the measures of success are ill-defined, as in "I'm not sure this xyz you're asking for is even possible - but we'll give it a shot."

Competence is always assumed. Excellence on top of default competence is an unforeseen surprise.

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Andrew KimeryRe: Above and beyond - or Just good enough?
by on May 27, 2014 at 10:29:32 pm

This reminds of of an episode of Star Trek: Next Generation where Scotty (from the original Star Trek) makes a cameo and passes sage advice to Geordi.

Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge: I told the Captain I'd have this analysis done in an hour.
Scotty: How long will it really take?
Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge: An hour!
Scotty: Oh, you didn't tell him how long it would *really* take, did ya?
Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge: Well, of course I did.
Scotty: Oh, laddie. You've got a lot to learn if you want people to think of you as a miracle worker.

My default mode is to give 110% though I've learned to dial that back when I've been in situations where I'm casting pearls before swine. I've been in a situation where a producer basically told me, "I know all this little stuff bothers you, but we really need to get this out ASAP so think 'C' level work. It doesn't have to be pretty, it just has to be done." Those types of situations I try to avoid because I hate putting out work that I think is subpar but sometimes that's just how is shakes out.

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Mike SmithRe: Above and beyond - or Just good enough?
by on May 28, 2014 at 7:20:09 pm

Interesting. Is it different, do you think, in a client / service provider or employee / boss context ?

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Mark SuszkoRe: Above and beyond - or Just good enough?
by on May 28, 2014 at 8:00:44 pm

The example they give in the article is delivering a day early when you've promised them 4-day shipping. The customer will smile for a second, but since you delivered within the general time you promised, it doesn't take on any "added value" to the customer's way of thinking. OTOH, when you don't have a fixed delivery date, a surprisingly early delivery then may create a strong enough impression to matter.

I think this is probably the same in an employee/boss situation, where everyday excellence is accepted a a default. It is in those rarer situations where there's a lot of uncertainty, that going above and beyond tends to get noticed more.

If I do something particularly "extra" on a project, I tend to mention it in passing somewhere in the correspondence to them as an "added value/effort" that I've done especially for a particular "favorite" client. Clients like to feel special, too:-) But in a technical business like ours, they often lack the tools to understand what level of excellence you've applied because they often assume the software did it and not you. So they don't feel special until they understand what it takes to just deliver to spec, versus what it takes to go beyond mere parity performance. It always goes back to educating the client.

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