How the Search for Perfection Can Paralyze Your Dealership
A boss from one of my former lives once told me, “It’s not called micromanagement. It’s called quality control.” He was only half joking. Regardless of technological advances that help us do our jobs more efficiently, many of us still find ourselves falling victim to an old-age nasty habit: perfectionism. Granted, there are times during which being a perfectionist is not a bad thing. Nobody needs a heart surgeon who says, “Hey guys, we’re shooting for the B- solution during this surgery. I’m knee-deep in season three of Schitt’s Creek.” And the Sistine Chapel would not be the wonder that it is today if Michelangelo told Pope Sixtus IV, “Hey bud, I’m thinking I can knock this thing out in two, three months…tops.” As in all things, one must strike a balance between perfectionism and efficiency. Luckily, we have technology such as artificial intelligence that allows us to achieve and maintain superior quality while at the same time producing an adequate service quantity.
In her article “Don’t Let Perfection be the Enemy of Productivity,” Alice Boyes explains that three perfectionist aspects interfere with one’s “ability to prioritize the most important tasks” and ultimately degrade an organization’s efficiency. First, perfectionists often cling to decisions like Charlton Heston clings to a rifle. The thought of an employee making the wrong decision makes a perfectionist cringe in the same fashion that the majority of the Nation would squirm if Tom Brady returned to New England. Perfectionists believe that they must control every decision or else their enterprise will crash and burn. Cleary, this tendency can paralyze an organization when employees stand in line outside the boss’ office to get her approval for every decision ranging from the soda selection in the waiting room vending machine to next quarter’s inventory order.
Boyes moves to her next point and describes perfectionists as people who feel compelled to constantly over deliver. She uses the example of a compulsion to deliver $1500 worth of value despite the customer only paying for $1000. She goes further to explain this trait could result from the belief that if you want to prevent people from becoming disappointed in you, you must always over deliver and exceed their expectations. While it is very charitable to give someone $500 of additional value, this overkill squanders a dealership’s time, resources, and labor. David Blaine is not going to show up in your parking lot and make $500 worth of value appear every time a customer leaves your doors. Here in the real world, that charitable donation is depleting another effort or task.
Boyne closes by stating that when perfectionists embrace new approaches or habits, one of three things can happen: they “bite off more than they can chew and their plans are too onerous to manage; they avoid starting any habit unless they’re 100% sure they can hit their goal every day, which leads to procrastination; or they take on only those habits that they can stick to no matter what.” These criteria eliminate flexibility and change a dealership from a dynamic organization into a living algorithm running on a perpetual “if, and, then” statement. We all can probably count the number of perfect days we have had on a single hand. Things go wrong and they often continue to go wrong until we look at the problem from a different perspective or take a new approach.
Using the Toyota Production System as context, we can also argue that perfectionism is a form of Muri (無理). This term translates to “overburden, beyond one’s power, excessiveness, impossible, or unreasonableness.”Muri occurs when people are “utilized beyond more than 100% capability to complete a task or in an unstainable way.” There are limits to what we as people can do each day. Yes, we all have to sprint at work from time to time, but a sprint cannot continue for months on end unless you are building power stations in Siberia during the Russian Gulag. The perfectionist obsession with flawless quality often leads to excessive work hours for both them and their employees. Tasks fall through the cracks. Backlogs increase. Blood pressure explodes. Employees quit. Brady wins another Super Bowl.
Getting back to our original point, AI has the potential of helping perfectionists find a middle ground between efficient operations and page after page of meticulously curated, cross-referenced, color-coded Excel sheets. We all collect some form of data and we often receive a paycheck for transitioning that data from disparate factoids into information so either we ourselves or our bosses can make informed decisions. That last sentence is important for it defines the logical boundary for the priority allocation of our mental focus. Leaders, by definition, make decisions. They cannot always make the perfect decision, but good bosses will always review the existing information, weigh the known risks, and make the best available decision using their judgement. Decision-making should be a leader’s intellectual center of gravity rather than agonizing about the difference between Calibri and Arial fonts. Understand the situation, weigh the risks, pick the best decision, and move on to the next problem. This is the thought process of effective leaders.
This is all well and good, but that tremendous mountain of data standing in front of a required decision is not going to process itself. There it sits…seductively calling for you to enter it into a crisp spreadsheet and spend hours in your office color-coding and sorting it until your computer explodes into a majestic Nirvana of perfection. Never mind that you missed your kid’s birthday (again) and another employee just dropped a two-week’s notice on your desk, you are sitting on your Iron Throne of a very organized Westeros.
Enter AI and its amazing data-crunching, color-color coding, categorizing glory. We understand that there is only so much perfectionism from which we can absolve people, so we offer that if you are going to strive for perfection, do so with the decision and not the data. Now we cannot prevent perfectionists from anguishing over every single decision, but we can suggest that certain software solutions go so far as to make recommendations and allow you, the decision maker, to select the best option after applying subjective factors that apply to your particular dealership. Tools such as Sophi CX allow you and your employees to offload the time required to compile and sort data onto an AI so you can focus your energy on making decisions as to how to deliver the best possible quality of service for your customers.
In closing, most people want to provide the best performance while they are at work. Your employees walk through the front door with the desire to do their jobs to the utmost of their ability give your customers the best possible service. Nobody wants to be mediocre. But like Boyes states in her article, finding balance is important and we must strive to discover the sweet spot between quality and quantity. Your judgement and ability to make good, not perfect, decisions is the catalyst to pushing the boundaries of the efficiency frontier. Providing near-perfect customer service feels good, but it takes a lot of work. Sophi CX reduces that workload and enables you to provide more outstanding service. So contact us today and let us work together to make your inner-perfectionist happy, but your customers even happier.
Let Sophi CX be a perfectionist so you do not have to be one.