What does the concept of “good enough” mean to you? For many people, it means doing mediocre work that they know isn’t good. But they say it’s good enough. By what standard, if any, do they judge this? Good enough for whom?
To other people, the concept means something entirely different. Picture little Joe at age 9, showing his dad a wooden bird house he is building for a school assignment. “Dad, is this good enough?”
Dad looks over the bird house. “See these gaps, here? The board needs to be cut straighter. If you make that fix, then this will be good enough. You’ll have a handsome bird house that will last a long time.”
The lesson Joe learned is that he must do work that is good enough to meet the applicable standards. In this case, they were standards of good workmanship. But as he gets older, the attitude will carry over into other areas. In high school, will his football practice be good enough? Not if he doesn’t put his all into it.
When you say your work is good enough, do you mean you reached a level of work quality you can be proud of? If not, you’re using “good enough” as an excuse rather than a performance metric.
One reason people may use the other meaning is they just don’t do good work. What they do isn’t good, but it’s about as good as could be expected given their poor level of preparation.
And therein lies the secret to doing work that is truly good enough: preparation. Really solid preparation is what enables you to do work that is good enough to meet even the most rigorous standards.
So what does really solid preparation consist of? The particulars depend upon the specific work you’re doing and where you’re doing it, but here are some generally applicable areas:
• Be familiar with the NEC. You don’t have to be a Code expert, but you do need to have a mental list of common Code violations (so you don’t do “silly stupid” things like leave an unused opening in an enclosure). And you do need to understand how the NEC is arranged; for the most part, this means you have a fair idea of what’s in the first four Chapters.
• Own industrial-grade test equipment and know how to use it. Consider just one of the many test tools you use, the digital multimeter (DMM). You need more than a basic “knock off” DMM. Assuming you have a higher-end DMM suitable to industrial work, you should know how to use most of the functions and when to apply them to real situations you’re likely to encounter.
• Get the right training. Don’t rely on your employer to identify your training needs. Make a point of identifying which skills or knowledge you need, and get the ball rolling. A discussion with your supervisor is always a good next step after you identify your training needs.
• Stay current. Technology changes at a rapid pace these days. What you learned five years ago may not be enough for you to do a good enough job. Don’t forget that technology brings about changes, not only in the equipment you’re working on, but also in the tools and test equipment you're using to work on it.
• See the finished job before starting the work. If, for example, you’re wiring a cabinet, try to visualize what the completed job will look like. Look for what’s needed so the installation will truly be good enough. For example, would additional hardware such as looms and gutters help make it a neater installation?
• Watch others, and trade tips with them. Observe carefully how other people do the same task you’re doing. This is the classic way to pick up those undocumented, but very valuable, “tricks of the trade.”
• Don’t offer or accept excuses. If something comes out less than good enough, figure out what you can do differently so it will be right the next time.
• Practice, rather than just do. As you perform your work, you want to achieve flawless execution. Repeatedly doing things the wrong way (or a less than best way) reinforces doing things that are not good enough. Every time you perform a task, try to do so perfectly. Over time, perfect execution will come naturally. Keep your mind on what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.
Don’t expect perfect results every time, but do execute perfectly. You get perfect execution through solid methodology built on solid preparation. Focus on doing things the right way, not on getting perfect results. Your results need to be good enough to meet high standards, they don’t need to be perfect.
Doing work that’s good enough to meet high standards takes effort. But the payoff is huge.