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Why 80% Is Better Than 100%


Any perfectionists out there? Then this title will seem very paradoxical to you. But, in fact, it’s very possible.

Here’s how.

When we’re focused on doing things perfectly—i.e. 100%—we’re not utilizing the best in ourselves or the other talented people around us. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have high standards, but I am saying that 100% perfection is not only unrealistic, it’s slower, less creative, and less innovative.

Think about the last thing you had to write for work—maybe a letter or a proposal. You probably did your first draft fairly quickly. Then, knowing it wasn’t perfect, you put it aside, thinking it would get better with age. It didn’t. You go back after letting some time pass and edit it again. You know it could still be better, so you “rinse and repeat,” perhaps numerous times. Finally, you hand it over to someone to review, hoping they won’t find fault. If they do, you feel like you’ve failed. They may even see problems, but don’t want to risk mentioning it to you, knowing how much time and effort you’ve put into it.

What if, instead, you did your first draft, read it over to make sure nothing vital was missing or incorrect, and then handed it over to a team member, saying, “Here’s the first 80%. I know it’s not perfect, and I know you’ll have some great things to add”?

This has two impacts. One, the other person feels free to edit or revise things without running into your ego, and, two, it puts things in motion. Instead of you sitting on it for days or weeks, the team is in gear, doing their part, and the finished product will be the result of your team’s collective intelligence, not just yours.

One of the most important entrepreneurial capabilities for owners and team members alike is to take action, and The 80% Approach is one of the very best ways to get in motion quickly. Once you do, it’s easy to gain traction and momentum with your key tasks and projects. It’s perfectionism that slows us down. We procrastinate if we can’t do it perfectly or aren’t able to give it the time we think it needs.

It’s incredibly liberating not to have to be perfect all the time. Doing the first 80% to the best of our abilities and then handing it off is freeing, and it taps in to all the other creative talent on the team.

This is exactly what happened when I wrote The Team Success Handbook. Was it perfect when I handed it off? Oh no. What was so much fun, and what made it a team effort, was that everyone was engaged in making it great. It’s a much richer, easier-to-read, and attractive book thanks to the love and creativity of everyone involved. And I think it’s appropriate that a team handbook was a team effort!

To hear more of Shannon’s entrepreneurial team insights, listen to the Team Success Podcasts.

Is there something you’ve been sitting on, partly finished, hoping you’ll have time to make it better? What would happen if you passed it to someone else, as-is, for feedback, critique, or edits? Tell us in the comments what you’re working on.

About the Author

Shannon Waller, Entrepreneurial Team Strategist, is a natural collaborator who instinctively saw that a thriving Unique Ability® Team can strengthen their entrepreneur, the business, and themselves. A win-win-win. Go, team, is Shannon’s rallying cry.

Profile Photo of Shannon Waller