May 2008

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A buddy of mine works for a consulting firm. 80% customer satisfaction is their stated policy. Clients aren't willing to pay twice as much to get the next 20%.


Of course the whole thing falls apart because there is no way to measure "percentage of perfectness" for most things, so everybody could assign a different number to the same quality.

What's an 80% perfect driver? One that drives 20% over the speed limit and runs red lights 20% of the time?

What's an 80% perfect blog entry? One that 80% of readers enjoy?

Joe Little

Speak for yourself. 80% was good solid A in Scotland and quite rightly so.

Real Live Girl

80% is a B, which is above average and normally tolerable for non-critical things. I can live with that. And not being perfect myself, I don't judge what people are capable of giving; I only have to decide for myself when it's satisfactory or not and go from there. Makes for a pretty balanced and happy life.


It's all a matter of return on investment. If you could invest 2% of the time it takes to do something and move from 80% to 100% I'm sure you'd jump at it.

I would read the comments to see if I'm duplicating someone else's post but that would take 500% of the time investment of writing this post. Guess you're out of luck there.


It's all a matter of return on investment. If you could invest 2% of the time it takes to do something and move from 80% to 100% I'm sure you'd jump at it.

I would read the comments to see if I'm duplicating someone else's post but that would take 500% of the time investment of writing this post. Guess you're out of luck there.

Karl N

This is why I read your blog, Scott. You really have some great insight. Thanks.





Well i think Scott is saying that If you want good quality above 80% You need to pay. Like Brain Surgeons from Pete's post. The make a lot of money. Along with Heart Surgeons. And art paintings worth are what critics say it is. I have lost my train of thought. If I was paid for this the quality might be better.

LA Clay

I will say that I am a 90%er. I would love to be able to live down to 80% but being anal rentative doesn't allow that. Hell, it's already murder living down to 90%. Help Me!


I would add that beware of perfect people. (Btw for the ones who don't catch it ... perfect people is only possible in his/her own eyes, so people who internally think that they are perfect aren't prone to ammend any mistakes but to make them the "right" thing, not so unusual, not at all ...).

Refund Please

Sorry I don't accept less than 90% quality on any item I purchase.

Where do I get a refund on the dilbert books I've already bought which - by the artist's own admission, fail to meet this 90% standard? (he doesn't even mention it in the disclaimer - shame!)


Right on! Be perfect only when it's necessary - the rest of the time it's mainly small stuff. Don't sweat it! Thank you for putting it so elegantly!


Me serial loser...fingers unwilling to type further

Peter Johnston

I'm reminded of Colin Chapman (of Lotus cars). He saw his chief designer working late one evening and said - "I don't want you staying here working 'til midnight - all I want is half an hour's bloody genius".
Sometimes, however, the genius doesn't come until midnight.


I sort of agree with you, but I am putting only 80% of my effort to assess if what you say actually makes sense. Of course, being as lazy or probably even lazier than you are, i have no intention of putting that extra 20% effort (which in this case may matter, such as making me disagree with what you say) in order to to check if you are generally fooling around! Good post, btw, i kinda enjoy these kind of ones ;)


I declare this post - stupid shit.


So is it good enough if 80% of your staff at your restaurant wash their hands, or 80% of the food servered is cooked properly?

Paul S

...Unless you happen to live in China and work with a Chinese team (as I do), in which case this is more accurately "the 40% rule." To get to "50% good enough" requires a doubling of effort.


"This also reminds me of your "out at five" business plan. I've been wondering for quite a while, could it really, really work? My sincere hope is that it could, but I've never been able to convince myself. Could a company that's satisfied with "good enough" really survive? I'd be willing to work there to find out."

The answer is they can survive and do well. The company I'm with right now wants people to work 24/7 and puts them under pressure to do so. I'm a contractor, I charge for the hours I work, "out at five" works for me. Or you can pay me 24/7, that's okay too. This company has lost over half of their staff members in the last 12 months. They individually decided that they wanted "a life" and bailed out. In at least one of the companies they've joined the manager tells you off if you're working too late, tells you to go home etc (emergencies do arise in which case all bets are off, but these are genuine emergencies, that is they don't happen every week).

Also commenting on...

"You have to wonder, what exactly is 80% of your potential?

I'm trained in the school of thought that we're capable of doing anything we put our mind to, therefore that imaginary cap of 100% doesn't really exist."

You were trained in the school of bullshit my friend. I'm ambivalent here, that comment is clearly rubbish but that attitude has got to be good. Like for example, I will never run a sub-4 minute mile I know it's beyond my physical capabilities. I will never be a great singer (I'm tone deaf, honest I've had a singing teacher tell me). But I could be a better runner and learn to lip-synch. Ignore me, stick with your fantasy...


I agree with you 80%.When I play tennis then I play primarily for working out and then in the course of the game if I can hit one of my favourite forehand shots then I am in seventh heaven but then I may be losing the set and my partner would be cursing me.I go back home happy with my one winning shot.Cheers.


Good strategy. I just take it one step further (probably you do it as well just didn't realised). In short: you can assume that average person tries to achieve 80% of rightness. So if you try to make it slightly better (+5% of effort) you achieve the best results still staying quite relaxed. It's like being one of the tallest persons in crowd does not require you to be double tall, 2 inches above average is probably enought.

Greetings from Lithuania


Damn true. I needed to have reached 40 to begin to realice it, still, sometimes i fall for the perfection call and, as ever, when i improve a good enough thing i've built (and it is working), it leads to complete disaster. Funny that i only have the call for perfection when doing hobby electronics or the recurrent improvement on the off-grid power system in the country house, not on my (kind of) cubicle software work.


In baseball if you bat over 400 you are in the record books for life. So only getting it right 40% of the time by today’s player’s standards is a million dollar baby. Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby batted over 400 for three years each in their career.

Often times when a President’s “End-of -Presidency Job Approval Ratings” drops below approximately 60% they are not reelected.

Salespeople know that they have to make 15 targeted cold calls for one sale which is about 7% success rate (my own research and experience).

The only thing lesser would be playing the Lottery for income with odds against you of millions to one.

The trick is finding a profession that has low expectations of what success is and to embrace its mediocrity. Think I will stop now, this is depressing me. Got to go buy my Super Lotto tickets for this week.

Mike Peter Reed

Reach for the stars. You may not get there, but you won't come up with a mouthful of mud, either.

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