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You Can’t Rush Excellence

There’s an old adage in business: you can’t have it done fast or you can have it done right, but you can’t have both. Of course, it’s not that simple. There’s a continuum of how well you do something—just as there is a continuum of how quickly you do it. It’s not either/or. However, this adage does point to a profound truth in business—there is always a trade-off between speed and accuracy in our work. Improving one often does mean cutting back on the other. So, which is more important?

Of course, when it comes to regulatory issues, the answer may be quite obvious. We can’t afford to overlook the details when we risk incurring fines from regulatory agencies, not to mention how our reputations can negatively impacted but such oversights. But, apart from these matters, I still think it pays to go over everything twice to make sure you’ve got it right. Why is this the case? Isn’t “double checking” just a redundant waste of time? Shouldn’t you just do it right the first time and not have to worry about going over it again?

The problem is that we are often poor judges of our own work. All of us are a little biased toward our own abilities, and we tend to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. We’re much quicker to catch the mistakes of others than we are to catch our own. When we double check ourselves, we can stand a better chance of catching the mistakes we missed the first time.

By not reviewing our work, we may tell ourselves that we’re just “saving time,” but the truth is often that we don’t want to doubt our ability to do it right the first time. But, we’ve got to swallow our pride and be willing to examine our work. Success is worth much more than the pride that risks preventing it.