The Stigma of a Perfect Product

BY Alicia Hurst ON JANUARY 31, 2017

Has anyone ever really created the perfect piece of software? I’d venture that the answer is a resounding “No!”

Every product has its flaws, whether in user experience, feature set, bugs, or technical debt. And I think we all know and accept that. Most product leaders are realists. Perfect to a product manager usually means done right, not flawless. In our iterative, agile world, it’s naive to think that we ever ship anything faultless or absolute. The product is never finished.

So why then is perfection such a hot topic in product development? Countless articles debate quality versus speed, and tote bags and t-shirts don platitudes like “done is better than perfect” and “perfect is the enemy of good.”

In my experience when people talk about perfection, they often use it as a mask to obscure a point they’re uncomfortable making directly. And that’s a problem, because it means actual issues are liable to be swept under the rug. As product managers, the real enemy is anything that gets in the way of efficient communication or holds you back from creating the most valuable product for your users.

For example, rather than expressing concern as, “Are the requirements for this feature overly complex?” you might hear marketing assert, “It doesn’t have to be perfect; just release it as an MVP!” Or when you’ve gone through draft after draft of a design because your intuition tells you something is off, instead of reminding you of an upcoming deadline, the project manager exclaims, “It looks fine, stop being such a perfectionist!”

Perfect, or good enough?

Does anyone really believe that perfection is the goal here? Or are they trying to make you fear being seen as slow to promote their own agenda? Though perhaps not maliciously intended, the use of black and white thinking creates a false dichotomy: either it’s perfect, or it’s good enough. In this logic stalemate, you might feel pressure to prove you can ship, and in doing so, stop what you’re working on. But your compromise may leave greatness or excellence on the cutting room floor, or worse, lead you to release a below-grade solution that’s not viable, or is just plain terrible.

The next time you hear someone else use perfect, dig deeper. Ask questions until you discover what they’re really after. You might find that you get to the heart of the problem faster and improve communication.

Alicia Hurst

About

Alicia Hurst

Alicia is an NYC-based product manager who loves delightful user experiences. Previously, she has designed and developed websites for fledgling companies, and ran social media for a nonprofit. She's a fan of GIFs, memes, and pondering the national obsession with Millennials. She tweets about product management and other issues at @aliciainthecity.