Good is a Necessary Evil | Jesse Fewell Good is a Necessary Evil – Jesse Fewell

Good is a Necessary Evil

By April 9, 2009Blog, Uncategorized

I was mulling over how our project team might get better at doing Agile / Scrum, and stumbled over two proverbs that capture the substance of our efforts:

“Perfect is the enemy of good” – Voltaire


“Good is the enemy of Great” – Jim Collins

When contemplating the truth embedded in these statements, I wondered if they could be mashed up to yield a new cliche’ of my own:

“Good is a Necessary Evil” – me

Let’s unpack this a little more, using a few more colloquialisms along the way…

  • Good is a Necessary Evil – Too often, we get so hung up on the way things *should* be, we refuse to accept any things else. Methodology snobs and process wonks declare that if you don’t do it (CMMI, Scrum, PMBOK, or Six Sigma) all at once, you can never be sure you’ll do any of it. Certainly, there are points to be made in favor of all-at-once process improvements: it creates the right kind of mess (aka “creative destruction“) and it forces commitment up front. However, the other maxim of crawl, walk, run reminds us that you can only be successful one step at a time. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, or you’ll never generate the confidence you need to push forward.
  • Good is a Necessary Evil – Although the trip of a thousand miles starts with the first step, the danger of starting small is staying there. A little bit of success can dull our desire to get better, faster, cheaper as an organization. We as a team have to express, and re-express our commitment to continuous process improvement. The “evil” associated with being good, is that insidious notion that we’re good enough to rest. Surround yourself with a group of individuals that are ruthlessly devoted to getting better one step at a time, and you’ll be more likely to resist the temptation to do so.

Those are my meandering thoughts for the week. Now, I have to go back and count how many oft-repeated truisms and buzz-phrases I just mashed together…