the illusion of perfection

Let’s face it, anyone who has the mindset of an engineer likes to deal in exacts. Exact measurements in any respect are required to fit together the incredibly complex legos that exist in all realms of engineering. Through this quest for definites, when we’re engineering a solution to a problem we’re almost immediately trying to account for every possible situation that this solution might be used in, and every possible failure scenario that might crop up when using the solution. But what we need to realize is that this quest for perfection when designing this solution is an illusion.

The embodiment of perfection is a marriage of knowledge and perspective. Both of these factors are ever changing, especially in the IT world, like I work in. And with this ever shifting plane of knowledge and perspective, it would be silly to look at something that I’m designing at this particular point in time and expect to get any semblance of perfection out of it as I will ultimately learn something new or acquire a new perspective, through the process of engineering, that can then be tied into the solution that I’d already declared complete and ‘perfect’. Thereby making the entire process cyclical. I see it kinda something like this :

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 10.50.41 PM

This isn’t a new concept, iterative engineering is a thing, but I think a lot of operators in the IT world are constantly striving for what would be considered a ‘perfect’ design of the respective platforms that they’re working on. And when that ‘perfection’ is never realized a lot of things can happen, whether it be an outage due to missing something in the design due to lack of knowledge, or lack of perspective on the environment you’re dealing with or how a certain aspect of the service should’ve been engineered. Then throw in the fallible nature of the human psyche and you’re asking for a disaster. Pride comes into play, feelings get hurt, words fly. It’s not pretty. I’ve been part of these types of interactions and they are NOT fun.

With that, we should realize that we should prepare for the fact that our idea of perfection will ever shift as we grow and learn and apply what we’ve seen. With this I leave you with a little anecdote of what made me think of this.

A few months ago I visited a friend who works for a particular organization whom are doing some pretty amazing things in the realm of technology right now. Whether it be open sourcing certain internal tooling, or using their presence to back certain directions in the industry. Hint : It’s something to do with a big blue ‘F’.

When I’d arrived at the facility, I walked into the building and proceeded to check in on the iPad at the reception counter, and I noticed that the iPad was sitting on a little wooden stand that had some words burned into it, “Done is better than perfect”, because you’ll never attain true perfection anyway.


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