Sometimes Good Enough is Anything But

For all of you perfectionists out there who fight the need to make every project flawless . . . stop reading. Everyone else, read on.

I recently watched a video Is Good Enough. It makes the point through some strong stats and imagery that even 99.9% sometimes doesn’t cut it.

If 99.9% is good enough:

• 470 entries in the New Merriam Webster Dictionary would misspelled.

• Tomorrow morning 2052 Wall Street Journals will be missing the front page.

• In the next hour over 1,000 ATM machines will dispense the wrong amount of cash.

• Next week 21,367 books will be published with the wrong cover.

• Next week 44,230 medical prescriptions will be written incorrectly.

• Within a year, 4,266 newborns will leave the hospital with the wrong parents.

These stats, among others in the video, demonstrate just how important your company’s standards and practices are when it comes to quality, safety and excellence.


Humans are not perfect creatures. We make mistakes. We form bad habits. We get lazy. That’s why it’s vital that we build quality and excellence into our routines, whether it’s answering phones or landing airplanes.

Craig Cochran, Project Manager, Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership at Georgia Tech says, “A quality management system needs to be a streamlined and simple engine for success. Instead of being an adjunct to the way an organization conducts business, it needs to be The Way business is conducted. Weave the system into the day-to-day flow of activities and watch it produce results.

If you need any more convincing that “good is not enough”, here are a few stories, ripped from the headlines.

• In May of 1994, oil workers were evacuated from the Piper Bravo Oil Rig after an explosion that killed 167. During a routine check, inspectors removed and replaced all safety valves, except for one, which was never put back. Unaware that the safety valve was missing, a worker pushed the start button, and gas began to leak out. Cost, in addition to lives, $3.4 billion.

• In 1999, a Mars orbiter that Lockheed Martin designed for NASA was lost in space due to a simple error where the engineers at Lockheed used English measurements while the NASA team used metric ones. The mismatch led to a formation on the $125 million craft malfunctioning and the probe being lost.

• In 2006, the Italian airline Alitalia accidentally marked a business-class flight from Toronto to Cyprus as $39 instead of $3,900, and 2,000 tickets were sold at this price. While the company tried to cancel the purchases, Alitalia eventually honored the tickets, which amounted to a $7.72 million loss.

• In 2008, at a practice flight in Guam, America's most expensive jet was destroyed when faulty sensors caused it to pitch up on takeoff, stall and crash. The B-2 stealth bomber, one of 21 in existence at the time, cost $1.4 billion.

It’s true. Sometimes 99.9% doesn’t cut it.

Diane Mettler has been a manager for nearly 20 years. She's also a freelance writer and editor--with hundreds of her articles published in a variety of magazines—and teaches writing at the University of Washington.