Our NHS People

‘Good enough’ solutions

Let’s add ‘good enough’ to your repertoire.

In ‘How Resilience Works’, one of Diane Coutu’s observations is that people with a positive outlook might seem better at rebounding from difficulties because they are so optimistic. There is certainly a power in positive thinking. However, blind optimism can lead to bitter disappointment if reality does not measure up to our hopes. A more steady-state, she argues, is to be grounded in reality and face what might be difficult in all its awfulness, rather than hope it will go away.

With this perspective, it becomes clear that perfection is an elusive ambition. Coutu describes ‘bricolage’ as “an ability to improvise solutions to a problem without proper or obvious tools or materials.” In leadership terms, this is similar to using ‘inelegant’ solutions to messy problems. Although we strive for excellence, sometimes ‘good enough’ is just fine given the circumstances.

Begin by adding ‘good enough’ to your repertoire.

In the right circumstances, ‘good enough’ solutions can help us to remain steady and adaptable. In many situations, there can be no single, agreed, perfect answer.

Having ‘good enough’ in our repertoire can free us from perfectionist tendencies, which may hinder developments as well as cause excessive personal stress.

It is not about lowering expectations; instead, it is about bringing expectations in line with reality. Occasionally ‘good enough’ is the best possible outcome and a real achievement in difficult times.

‘Good enough’ can sometimes feel counter-intuitive and uncomfortable to managers and practitioners who have been rewarded, promoted and valued for their ability to do the right thing and do it well. However, it is important to remember that it is just one part of your developing leadership repertoire.

Reflect on the following;

  • How did it make you feel when perfection was not possible?
  • What was the ‘good enough’ approach you adopted?
  • What did you learn from adopting this approach?
  • When is a ‘good enough’ approach effective? When would you avoid it?

Talk to a colleague about the idea of a ‘good enough’ approach.

How you could support your team to know when this approach is appropriate and so build a better working environment?

Share your thoughts in the discussion area below.