Don’t wait for the perfect solution

The Last Word


Pat Koppa


Forrer Business Interiors Inc. Milwaukee

Industry: Office furniture

During his time on a submarine in the U.S. Navy, Forrer Business Interiors president Pat Koppa was taught to get enough information to make a reasonably intelligent decision or the opportunity will pass you by, he says.

Credit: Lila Aryan Photography

“During my time in the U.S. Navy’s Silent Service (nuclear sub force), I learned a valuable leadership lesson that I will never forget.  It’s expressed in an elegantly simple statement that everyone seems to grasp, after a brief moment of contemplation:  ‘Don’t polish the cannonball.’

“Granted, in my time of Cold War service our weapons of choice were steerable ‘smart’ torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles, but nonetheless, the visual of ‘polishing a cannonball’ that was going to crash through the side of a ship was a jolting example of wasted effort and loss of big picture. In warfighting and business battles, it serves as an effective way to tell someone, ‘You’ve got enough information; now MAKE a DECISION.’

“Too many of us are searching for that one last piece of data to give us the absolute confidence we desire to make the perfect decision. There are two major shortcomings with this approach:

“First, there’s always a chance you won’t get that last piece of information, and even if you do, it won’t really give you the 100 percent proof you were seeking.  Reality is that 80 percent is almost always enough.

“Second, and most importantly, waiting for that additional information costs precious TIME, and in many instances in life your opportunity to act has been lost, often beat by your competitors, or the once-favorable conditions have changed and the opportunity has passed you by.

“Remember, the cure for happiness is perfectionism. Don’t seek it. Settle for ‘close enough’ and fire the cannonball.   

“You can always adjust.”

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