Prioritization And Perfectionism

FIAT-Ferrari phenomenon in IT; Important vs Perfect

  • What to do about it
  • Exceptions — when is perfectionism necessary

Why do we waste time and effort on less important things?

It can be difficult to accept that we are going to build something imperfect.

1. Education

Maybe because in school, we got our grades (acknowledgement and sense of achievement) based on how close to perfection we did on the exams? The famous saying “you get what you measure” applies here — good students chase perfect grades.

2. Who had set the bar and based on what?

Another reason for chasing perfection (sub-optimal value/effort ratio) may be measuring our work against the most famous in our domain. Someone set the bar in your community, and many are copying them.

Fiat Panda (left) and Ferrari SF90 Stradale (right)

Adding the technical debt

An important consequence of “irrational investment” and perfectionism is adding more technical debt. The more features and logic we implement in the software, the more technical debt we introduce. Many of the features will be of low value but they will still add technical debt as much as the most useful ones. The “price” (overall investment) in any feature consists not only of the time and money we need to develop it but also of post-release expenses (maintenance, bug fixes, technical debt and added complexity).

What to do about this?

Promote a different definition of perfection.

Perfection is an optimal ratio of usefulness and effort to release the product (increment)

Optimal means: a measure of contribution to the business vs time and resources needed to deliver it. (Still sounds complicated, can we simplify? Any ideas?)


There are situations where anything less than perfection equals disaster. Some examples include flight control, brain surgery, the up-time of the stock exchange systems. These are the high-risk areas where releasing imperfect products makes no sense.

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