“Sweat the Details” or “Done Is Better Than Perfect”?

The downside of performing the same job for over 10 years has been experiencing a revolving door of supervisors and managers. The range has been wide, from “great leaders” to “I’d rather swallow my iPad before I work another day for this moron.” Oh, and knowing more about the work than they do.

These are my new work pants and shoes. Trust me when I say I thank my lucky stars every day and wish all of life's good parts could last forever.

The true challenge is staying up with the various, and sometimes contradictory, team-building ideas, motivational techniques, and management styles the new managers bring with them.

Just a few years ago we lived something close to the Facebook saying: Done is better than perfect. And we churned out substandard work. Lots of it.

Yes, a large number of projects were checked off as complete, but we always felt dirty and embarrassed because our names were associated with the work, and the results lived on long after the managers had left the building.

Then a new management team would arrive and review what was done and say, “we can do better than this, people. It’s a good thing we’re here to save you.” But then they would fall victim to the “more is better” rule of the 2000s and we’d explain to the next group of managers that followed them why it was what it was.

And change was always promised, but not delivered, in the game we played to keep our jobs: Quantity is easier to measure than quality.

And then Steve Jobs up and died and now we worship his 10 commandments and the popular, Sweat the Details, which may be the most amusing of all, as volume hasn’t changed. Now we sweat the details on certain projects, with certain being the key word.

It doesn’t say “sweat some details,” which made my wife wonder if sweating all details is healthy. She thinks it should read “sweat the important details.” I agree because I always agree with my wife and I really do agree with her this time.

It’s an odd contradiction of the workplace, these “mantras du jour” that keep us on track and motivated.

I do, however, look at a another of Jobs’s rules and dream to adopt it: Kill a 1,000 Projects. Now Sweat the Details makes more sense to me. It’s easier to sweat the details on 10 projects than 1,000.

And yet, when you have a boatload of projects on your to-do list, and half the time you need to complete them, apply the Facebook mantra and you may live longer.

5 thoughts on ““Sweat the Details” or “Done Is Better Than Perfect”?

  1. When using an apostrophe to denote ownership, as in this belongs to that person (example: Sheila’s pen), you should not use the “s” on words or names that end in “s.” For instance, “Jobs’s” should be “Jobs’.”

    Yes, I’m the grammar police.

    • Melanie,

      I’m always glad to hear from you and hope all is well with you and the family.

      I did teach English many years ago, though that doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I’m not. However, in this case, my use of Jobs’s is correct because of the style guide I use. And if you’d like a current day example of this, please buy a copy of the Oct 17 edition of The New Yorker and read their article on Steve Jobs. They also use Jobs’s – a lot. Feel free to email them, too. 🙂

      Please don’t let this discourage you from writing to point out my mistakes in the future. I always like to learn about the language I’ll never master.


  2. The secret to balance I think is to have some team members who are ‘big picture’ kind of people, and others that are detail orientated. For me, the details are the reason I’d be applying for another job. How about the saying “Sweat the details that might get you fired…”
    That’s pretty much the mantra I’ve lived by. Notice I don’t have a boss. Or a real job. Coincidence? ‘Course not! 🙂

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