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When is productivity at its perfect levels? In fact is it possible to reach perfect productivity levels? The answer to that is not a simple Yes or No. Productivity by its nature entails amongst others, achieving more with less or utilizing lesser input to derive greater output.  


If company A attains maximal productivity, is it safe to say company A has reached a stage of perfection? It is hard to tell but it is critical to strive to reach perfection whilst not being obsessed with perfection. Many seek perfection but few attain perfection? Is it attainable? The answer is best summarized by this philosophical phrase on perfection. “Perfection is an illusion and those who seek perfection will find themselves unfulfilled their whole lives” – Unknown. 

However from technical stance, perfection can be defined as “the highest degree of proficiency, skill or excellence.  It is possible to be perfect in your productivity levels? To a varying degree, perfection is achievable. Achieving a score of 100% in an assessment is deemed perfect however the closer you perceive you are to achieving perfection, it is often marred by awareness that perfection may simply be a mirage. To be perfect implies achieving a level of excellence that cannot be improved upon. However how many times have we heard the phrase “I am just human” from those who sought to perfection?

That said, perfection remains pivotal in productivity. Looking deeper into perfection, there are three dimensions of perfection, experienced on varying degrees: self-orientated perception (imposing high standards on oneself); socially prescribed perfection (high standards are imposed onto the individual); and other orientated (imposing high standards on other individuals).


The impact of the concept of perfection has led society at large to celebrate, prefer and perceive perfection as an asset rather than an obsession or addiction. Consequently, the misguided belief that perfection is a desirable outcome has led to any output or work that is deemed to not be perfect viewed as unacceptable. That in it creates a loophole for productivity levels to hit the skids due to the obsession with perfection.

In the 21st century perfection is demanded - aimed at the overarching purpose of creating a funnel of pure excellence. However the increasing pressure has created a collapsible structure, which punishes the individual whom is doomed to fail due to the dichotomy involved. This dichotomous culture ignores the essence of productivity and the humanity – continuous improvement and has shifted focused purely on achievement and goal attainment.

Perfection is deemed a behavior, which is underlined and influenced by various factors; these factors include but are not limited:

  • Achievement orientated
  • Fear of failure
  • Recognition and awareness driven
  • Masking insecurity
  • Consequences of negative feedback

Voltaire, the famous writer, historian and philosopher stated, “the perfect is the enemy of the good” which can be extended as a hindrance to productivity. The sheer visualization of perfect unattainable standards can be intimidating to individuals, subsequently leading to failure to initiate and failure before initiation. Perfection has the toxic ability to stifle innovation, creativity, and time wastage and can potentially result in depression.

The co-founder of LinkedIn, Reed Hoffman, stated, “if you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you have launched too late." Effectively what this translates to is that the incessant need to achieve perfection can lead to a propensity to needlessly make changes thereby leading to low production margins.

The 21st century and globalization is characterized by continuous change and competition, which does not afford individuals to fully perfect products and services. Competitors may have usurped the opportunity and developed several versions of a similar product or service whilst taking advantage of one of the greatest assets – feedback.


Additionally, there is a relationship between perfection and the following, but it is not limited to:

•        Failure to trust colleagues and other individuals

•        Lack of delegation;

•        Micro managing;

•        Poor workplace relations, teamwork and employee engagement

•        Failure to achieve required performance levels on various platforms and responsibilities

•        unnecessary overtime

•        Loss of desire and passion (e.g. Passion for music)

Whilst perfection can be visualized as shackles hindering productivity and performance, it can be a motivator to achievements. The following are methods to strike a balance between perfection, productivity and excellence, but is not limited to:

  • Be realistic and set appropriate goals
  • Acceptance that you are human
  • Strive for excellence rather than perfection
  • Focus on learning rather than outcomes
  • Priorities


Striving for perfection within the workplace and in all spheres of life provides a catalyst to achieving outcomes, as we perform at a far higher level with, as opposed to the absence of the concept. Employees have an internal spirit to not only achieve, but to constantly improve; this subsequently provides a catalyst for productivity. Therefore, perfection acts as the lubricant that provides alignment to satisfying our desires.

Incessantly striving for perfection is an unconscious driver of development and learning, which stimulates individuals to improve their performance. An individual who strives for perfection is an unconscious motivational reference point and inspiration to others. The benefits of striving for perfection introduce an identifiable culture of excellence within an organization.

Footballer, coach and management executive, Vince Lombardi, says, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence”. Whilst striving for perfection is fundamentally good, the energy exerted must be focused to create an environment of excellence and productivity.

If perfection can be activated and focused rather than act as a paralysis – it can lead and inspire a productive and competitive South Africa. Over analysis can lead to paralysis.

In conclusion, politician, author and former journalist, Michael Gove, echo the power of the relationship between perfection and productivity that states, “In this fallen world, I suspect we will never achieve perfection. But that will not stop me trying”


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