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Monday, 8 September 2014


Once upon a time, I had a boss who would strut around conference stages repeating his mantra: "Nearly is not good enough."  I have no idea where he found the phrase.  I suspect, like a lot of business managers in the 90s - including me - he had been seduced by a lot of the guru books that were doing the rounds in those days.  They were written mainly by Americans.  I am not sure if that is relevant.  But it might be.

The 90s, if I recall accurately, saw the emergence of slim volumes of "inspirational" messages, folksy stories and simple solutions to industry's woes.  Most of it was, of course, claptrap - but beautifully packaged, marketed and presented claptrap, it must be said.

I read a lot of these books and, for a time, I believed them.  I would take chunks of them to heart and try to adapt my management style accordingly.  I have no evidence one way or the other but I reckon my teams were either in awe of my "wisdom" or tired of my "whizz dumb".

On balance, a lot of these gurus were snake oil salesmen - male writers were in the majority - selling dreams in that "duh, it's simple, stupid" kind of way.  CEOs were in awe of these magicians and their magic formulas.  Books were bought in their millions, conferences were built around the key messages and, a couple of times, we were told that we were being "sheep-dipped" into a new culture on our journey to the Promised Land of perfect business in thought, word and deed.

Anyway, back to the "nearly is not good enough" guy.  I was always uncomfortable with that particular message.  Like a lot of these messages, slogans and one-liners, it kinda made sense.  But, underneath there was the implication that nothing was worth trying if there was any risk of failure.

In my experience over many years, sometimes nearly is good enough.  To plant the seeds of guilt and doubt in the minds of people trying hard to achieve success and ambitions is a poor way to live life.  Sometimes winning a bronze medal is just as satisfying as winning gold, depending on where you are on your particular (oh, damn, here comes that word) journey.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again.  Bounce back off the ropes...... all more relevant in this rollercoaster world.

I'm beginning to sound like a guru, so I'll leave you with this tailpiece.  The "nearly is not good enough" guy left the business.  He nearly made it to a top executive position but, maybe, he was just not................

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