Perfection Syndrome!

Don't get me wrong, I love perfection! In fact, you can find this quote of me, everywhere in my social profiles:

I believe in practical perfection!

So what is wrong about perfection that I don't like? There is a special kind of perfection that stops you from doing the job itself, I'm calling it Perfection Syndrome. In this case, I prefer not to do the job with this excuse: "I'm a perfectionist!".

Perfection Syndrome: Special kind of perfection (excuse) that stops you from doing the job itself!

The reality behind perfection syndrome is fear, the fear of facing our inadequacies. When we fear to face our inadequacies we start hiding it using something more prestigious, perfection. In this case, perfection is not a belief, it is just an excuse to cover our inadequacies from others and ourselves.

The reality behind perfection syndrome is fear, the fear of facing our inadequacies.

So, in my theory, if I really believe in perfection, I am doing something in a perfect way. On the other hand, if it is just the perfection syndrome, I am not doing anything at all, instead, I am using this excuse: "I think it is not perfect enough yet", and after a while, I will give up on it!

The Story of a Child That Is Never Born!

Have you ever wondered what happens if a child doesn't decide to born? He will never get out of there! This story is about one of them. Since he is not born yet, his name is Baby1! Baby1 has a warm and relatively comfortable place to live. Growing in such a hidden place gives him the opportunity to build up his required features and make himself a full-functioning human someday. So he is building his brain, heart, legs, etc. After about 9 months it is time to come out of there. But just right at the time of birth, he thought what if I stay here a little more, grow more, and born as a much more complete human next week. The same story happens week after week and Baby1 postpones his birth, with the excuse of being a perfectionist.

Let's narrate this story from another side, Baby1's mother! Let's name her the PoorMother! PoorMother expected to see his child at a specific time, but it is not happening. She made everything ready to grow Baby1 in the real world. When he is born he should learn lots of new things out there in the real world. He should experience coldness, warmth, light and lots of other things that will help him to grow towards perfection. But the baby is still busy with his theory of getting a perfect human in his closed world. Although he doesn't know anything about real perfection, he thinks he is working his best towards perfection. End of story!

This is an open-ended story, so you can finish it as you like. These are some options:

  • f he doesn't ever decide to come out, the PoorMother will die!
  • If Baby1 decides to come out late, he will face a new world, completely different than the one he was living in very late. He will have big physical problems later in his life.
  • If he chooses to born at the right time, he starts his journey towards a perfect human.

Let's analyze the baby's decisions more deeply. First, the baby is killing the project (his birth), while he is busy with perfection! In fact, perfection is just an excuse that lets the baby feel comfortable with his decision, not facing reality! The reality is that the baby fears the world out there, and to cover up this fear he decides to label it as perfectionism.

Perfection Syndrome: I scare of reality out there. I don't have enough courage to admit this fear. I claim I am a perfectionist and that's the reason I'm not doing anything.

Moving towards perfection requires the courage to face reality, which the baby is fearing of! And it is more beautiful to demonstrate your fear as perfection! In other words, I don't do anything, because I'm afraid of seeing my weaknesses. Instead, I would say I am a perfectionist and I will not do anything until it's perfect (never!)

What is Wrong!?

If we want to do something perferct, we should do it perferct within a specific time. The problem is that we mostly exclude the time factor and then, looking for a perfect solution. The reality is that "the time IS a part of problem". Removing it, doesn't make us perferct!

In software projects I saw lots of developers feeling they're perfectionists so they do not deliver anything hiding themeselves behind: "I'm a pro, I'm a perfectionist". As you see they are pretending to be a professional by eliminating the time factor from problems. It makes a team expensive, yet with no result. This is what I call "Perfection Syndrome".

So "Practical Perfection" is a kind of perfection, that you do not eliminate the time factor from it.


Practical Perfection: Being perfect via delivering something perfect.

About the author

Mehran Davoudi

A former technology geek! Currently a mentor and software architect, working as a consultant for companies with large scale software development.
Why dvd? Read about me (uɒɹɥəɯ)!

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  • I agree ... good thoughts.
    If you are happy with your solution and truly proud of what you have accomplished then that is perfection. If you are given a window to complete something perfection only makes sense within that window.
    In the context of software if you want to take software to market with completion fiercely working in parallel the most elegant solution is usually the most simple one that takes the shortest time and will lead the charge and make you proud of it.

  • Dear Mehran, I deeply enjoyed reading your thoughts.
    As I lived almost 10 years of my life with these people, I do have some comments:
    These people, let me name them “narcissists”, usually do not see things as you do, they don’t believe that they have any -God forbid- inadequacies but, they are truly afraid of other people’s judgment! I can tell that the problem with these folks is not making anything perfect, but, un-judgemental.
    The best part is that we need these folks to create the future, they do not consider “time” as a limiting factor and it applies to other issues as well. So, they really think “limitless” and their creations change the world, making it a better place to live.
    As Ed Catmull, founder and CEO of Pixar once said: “Perfection is the enemy of progress.”
    Loved your article my friend.

  • Woww... Thank you for your great comment.
    Now I see that I write this article totally from a project management perspective.
    From the innovation perspective, your thoughts are completely understandable.
    Maybe the main problem is misplaced approaches: "Being a perfectionist within a project" and "Being a time-concerned one within an innovation process"...

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