Good is Good Enough?

Do you ever find yourself saying, “that’s good enough” about something? I do it all the time, and I’ll bet you do too. Like when I’m patching a small hole with spackle, I’m not aiming for the smooth perfection of a marble tabletop. Getting the hole covered and painted is good enough. Or when ridding our yard of the seemingly millions of leaves carpeting the ground each fall. Do I have to round up each and every stray leaf? Of course not, getting most of them bagged is good enough. Unless you’re performing brain surgery, good enough is often, well, good enough. Unfortunately, that message is lost on many organizations implementing OKRs.

Over the years working with organizations as an OKRs Coach, I’ve noticed that when it comes to creating key results, most organizations will never allow themselves to enjoy the comfort and effectiveness derived from embracing the spirit of “that’s good enough.” Quite the opposite in fact, they’ll squeeze every conceivable drop of juice from the intellectual lemon in an attempt to craft sophisticated, elegant – maybe even perfect – key results for their corresponding objectives. But the reality is that for some objectives – especially the innovative, experimental, and never before imagined variety that have the potential to add real value – perfect key results may not exist. Rather than defaulting to a “that’s good enough” alternative when facing that roadblock many teams will water down or, even worse, scrap what could be a game-changing objective for them. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Satisficing…What is it?

Enter the work of Herbert Simon, a 1978 Nobel prize winner in the category of Economic Sciences. Simon made significant contributions to many fields including psychology, economics, computer science, and management. If that doesn’t impress you, maybe this will, he was a prescient advocate of artificial intelligence some seven decades before Chat GPT was a glint in Sam Altman’s eye. Simon is best known for his pioneering work in decision-making, particularly the theory of bounded rationality, which sounds to me like a great name for a band, but has nothing to do with music. Bounded rationality challenges the assumption that people are perfectly rational in making decisions, suggesting that we often make choices based on limited information and cognitive capacity.

Simon simplified the terminology for his theory by using the term “Satisficing” (another potential band name?). According to Simon, when faced with complex decisions and limited information-processing capacity, individuals tend to adopt a satisficing strategy. This means they search for alternatives that meet a certain level of acceptability or satisfaction, rather than exhaustively evaluating all possible options to find the absolute best choice. Satisficing recognizes that decision-making is often constrained by cognitive limitations, time restrictions, and incomplete information. By accepting a satisfactory solution rather than striving for an optimal answer, individuals can make decisions more efficiently and effectively.

Perfection is the Enemy of Progress

Bringing this back to the realm of OKRs Consulting, satisficing has the potential to dramatically reduce the frustration and futility of attempting to create perfect key results. Rather than obsessively searching for these measurement unicorns, when faced with a challenging objective to measure you should simply adopt a few critical criteria (e.g. ability to easily count or track, alignment with the objective, and indicative of success) and find potential key results that satisfy those conditions.

Perfectionism can be a paralyzing force, hindering progress and stifling innovation. When we get caught up in the pursuit of flawless key results, we may find ourselves drowning in endless iterations and revisions, wasting valuable time and energy. By embracing the concept of satisficing we free ourselves from the burden of unattainable perfection and open up space for creativity and, ultimately, improved execution. And that’s more than good enough!

Paul Niven is the author of OKRs for Dummies, and a Global OKRs Consultant with