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Perfection

The concept of perfection provides one of the great philosophical quandaries of Lean. Like most continuous improvement disciplines, Lean promotes the relentless pursuit of waste reduction. It also pushes the concept of zero defects.

The problem though, is that perfection is unattainable. No matter how good an operation becomes there is always room for further improvement. It can be confusing to people to be told on one hand they should be seeking perfection, but on the other hand that there is no such thing as a best practice because no matter what process you are using, you can always be improved.

The truth is that it is not perfection itself that is important, but rather the commitment to seeking it. It is far better to be on a path towards the elusive goal of a perfect process and fall short than it is to set a mediocre goal and achieve it. The problem in the latter case is that once that easier goal is reached people stopped working. They frequently become complacent. They limit themselves.

It takes something of a Zen-like mind to be able to embrace this concept. It is very important for leaders to recognize that it is how a person travels along this path that matters in the long term. While reaching short-term goals is definitely important, how a person reacts after they cross these milestones is a greater indicator of a person’s commitment to a continuous improvement culture.

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