The tragedy of 'good enough'

Aha! teammates climb to new heights at an onsite. | Photo by Jodi B Photography

June 4, 2024

The tragedy of 'good enough'

by Brian de Haaff

How do you honor success? Some people might say a hearty pat on the back. Others might say a celebration party or well-deserved break. I agree with the first, and not so much with the second. Hard work and team wins should be acknowledged — but the revelry should be brief if you want more success in the future.

Each meaningful achievement stands on what came before it. Consistent effort thoughtfully applied is what leads to ongoing success.

There is no time for gratuitous victory parades and raucous champagne toasts. Value compounds over time. As a team delivers value, you create opportunities to deliver more. It is a virtuous cycle. But it requires intense focus and internal fortitude.

Lately, I have been thinking about how teams become better (and then even better) versions of themselves. It is easy to gauge a team's evolution in sports where the results of a game or tournament reveal what you need to know. But it is harder in business when there is not a series of defined competitions with an obvious scorecard.

You could argue business is inherently results-oriented, though. There is a group of individuals, each with unique contributions, working to accomplish something exceptional. Sustainability depends on profitable performance.

If you believe that the quality of a company is measured by what it contributes to everyone involved (and, even more broadly, to society), then you have a moral responsibility to keep increasing those contributions. This also means you are likely part of an organization that has been fortunate enough to do the following:

First, you had an insight. You discovered a problem worth solving. Second, you kept working on and improving the solution to that problem. And finally, you validated that people cared about what you were doing. (At the most basic level, customers paid you for that solution.)

But ongoing success is never guaranteed. Maybe you are now challenged in new ways or worried that you are falling behind.

So your attention is drawn to the issue of raising the standard and performing at an even higher level — while maintaining what made you special when you first started. Is it possible to materially enhance what you do and increase the value you create? Can you encourage everyone around you to keep working harder to be better?

After thinking about this deeply over the last few weeks, I think there are four focus areas:

Assemble the go team

Gather skilled and motivated people who want to achieve together. Everything is possible when you have like-minded folks who understand the organization's goals and are capable of contributing at an exceptional level and pace. Do not settle for less when bringing on teammates — even if it means carrying a heavy workload while you wait to find the right new hire.

Question what is OK

Be allergic to the concept of “good enough.” No one should be satisfied with less than greatness. This requires deep curiosity and a learning orientation from leadership that extends to the entire organization. People should be encouraged to develop new skills and aptitudes. Teammates are there to provide support if someone falters. Everyone holds one another accountable for growing in excellence together.

Give extraordinary effort

Do not give up when it is hard. The level of effort you gave when you were realizing initial success cannot wane. Remember that improvement is often incremental. If the team is always giving its all, then there might not be one big flash of accomplishment. Progress happens daily, so find ways to cheer on gradual gains that reflect everyone's work.

Keep rising

The challenge of creating value never ends. There is no final championship. No trophy to put in a case or banner to hang. You probably had a vision of what was possible when you first began. When you are starting from nothing and success happens, it can feel like a winning streak. But growth might be hard-fought as your company matures. When you have more, there is more to lose. Stay true to the boldness of your early days by setting audacious goals for the future. Give teammates new heights to which to ascend.

Raising the standard is more than optimizing what you already do well. It means you reject what might be an accepted minimum for performance and aim higher.

I am musing on this topic now because we are about to get the Aha! team together at another in-person onsite. The team will discuss raising our own standards in everything we do.

We exist to create value and to be proud of what we do — to be great and then become even better. And the truth is that commitment to achievement has powered our success. As a team, we often refer to building a very different type of high-growth software company, which I have written about recently.

For example, we will soon raise our standards by revealing our own methodology for product development. It is a framework that promotes a strategic approach to agile work, one from which you might want to borrow some ideas. We are also actively developing functionality in Aha! software that will enable folks to quickly adopt and benefit from the framework. (A launch announcement is coming soon.)

It is possible for even the highest-performing team to become better. Honor success by raising the standard for those around you.

Raising the standard can help us all recenter during what has become an off-kilter time for many businesses. There is no room to wallow in challenges or worry about falling behind if you are vigorously working to deliver more. There is only the forward momentum of reaching for an even greater best.

Raising the standard also drives collective pride in the effort given and the results attained. For those of us who love to achieve, there is no greater reward.

Want to help your team members be their best? Sign up for a free trial of Aha! software.

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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