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Is good enough ever good enough

Most often when we hear “good enough” few of us think anything good is going to happen. Good enough for government work. Good enough for the time being. Good enough until I hear otherwise. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me. Michael’s daughter who writes for a living and knows the value of good words, recently said, “One of the struggles a writer faces is “good enough for now copy,” when you say, ‘Oh, I ran out of time to really write something good and spectacular, so I am just going to go for good enough for now and then next time I promise to do something really good.’” It would seem when we work toward good enough, we are making ourselves the empty promise of "I’ll do better next time," assuming there will be a next time. Or are we?


Are there times when good enough is indeed good enough? When will “It’s good enough for now” not sound like a hollow promise? We looked to some real-world issues to see if we could justify good enough.


  • Your boss has put you in charge of preparing the department for a corporate audit. Your budget balance after expenses and revenues year to date should be $1.2million. The actual balance is $1.198 million. Good enough? Maybe. The actual balance is $895,000. Good enough? Not likely.

  • You are remodeling your kitchen and want to get involved offering some hands-on assistance. You’ve never mounted cabinet doors and hardware but you give it a try knowing there is a 50/50 chance of this handyman level installation working as it should. Good enough? You feel it is. What’s the worst that can happen, just some adjustments sometime later. You offer to install the built-in gas ovens. You’ve never worked with gas lines or installed any sort of appliance. There’s a 50/50 chance of you doing it correctly. Is this amateur level installation good enough? Doubtful.

  • It’s the night before a big written test. You are studying for your final exams and hope to score at least 70%. Good enough? It’s not perfect but it is passing. You are studying for the written examination for your commercial pilot license and hope to score at least 70%. Good enough. Technically it is passing but it is recommended to aim for scores in the mid-80s. (And would you want your pilot to have been just good enough?)


Clearly different situations have different expectations. Differences also exist in who faces the consequences.


  • A shortage of $2,000 against $1.2 million might put the accountant in question but a shortage of $105,000, nearly 9% of the total, might affect operations for the entire department.

  • A handy man cabinet door installation might mean after 2 or 3 months of use they must be tightened, straightened or remounted. A handyman naïve to working with gas lines and appliances may expose the house and family to a gas leak or explosion.

  • A just barely passing grade in an academic test affects only the test taker and their placement in the following year’s classes, where a just barely passing score on a commercial pilot license exam is potentially dangerous for hundreds of people at a time.


So maybe there are times when good enough is indeed good enough, but there are also clearly times when it isn't nearly enough. You must take care not to force your good enough upon others who won’t settle for anything less than good. When others are involved, good enough is rarely good enough, but in those instances when only you are relying on your performance, good enough could be as good as you are comfortable with.


Good enough is a matter of tolerance for less than professional execution and willingness to accept the consequences. It is not a matter of “if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me,” but one of “if it’s good enough for me then it might be good enough for me.”




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