Living in south-east Asia is exciting – and there’s a new challenge every day. Things that are easy back home (wherever that is, having been overseas for more than 20 years) seem to take a long time here – I’m thinking banking, the post office, renewing a driving licence for example. Conversely, things get done here in lightning time – getting furniture or a suit made, or redecorating your home or office – whereas back home it might take weeks. I know that each country has its benefits and drawbacks but there's one theme that keeps recurring around these parts: good enough is good enough.
We can see it everywhere: a lack of pride in the job, and a lack of interest in doing what they are paid to do. A general feeling that if they do just enough to get by, then that’s good enough for now – why bother to do more? It certainly isn't confined to the public sector; there are plenty of private companies that exhibit this behaviour. It’s a wonder how they keep their customers; perhaps they don’t, and they have a stream of one-time customers who never go back after that sole experience. Hardly a sustainable business model, but somehow they hold on.
But this got me thinking: where does that attitude come from? Why are some people so uninterested in doing a good job? What is it about their workplace that completely fails to spark any semblance of pride, or wanting to do something better? The more I think about it, the more I realise that it falls on management to fix that. If managers are constantly changing (think government ministers, or a company that is always reorganising) and it is never really clear what the organisation’s mission is, no wonder that people drift. And the same thing happens in the private sector if top management is unstable, the company may lose its moral compass. Then all kinds of behaviours that are not normally tolerated become more common and, before you know it, the company is on the front pages of the newspapers for this or that scandal.
But, these days, good enough is not good enough. If your organisation has that attitude then it is probably doomed to disappear (unless it’s a government monopoly, then we can feel sorry for the luckless people who have to use it). Business has changed so much – and will continue to change in ways we can’t imagine – that any company standing still is just slowly dying. I don’t have any prescriptions for success here, apart from to urge you to recognise the feeling – and fight it – when you’re tempted to say to yourself “well, it’s good enough”.