Tomorrow, December 7, is a time of remembrance for many here in the US. It marks the day the country was abruptly thrust onto the world stage by being drawn into World War Two. I did not participate in that, or any other war, but certain wartime lessons were engrained in me from the very beginning of my career.
My first job out of college was with the Space Electronics Department at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. APL, along with other university labs like MIT's Lincoln Labs, got its start during WWII, helping to create solutions to wartime challenges.
In APL's case, the challenge was how to take out enemy bombers that came screaming out of the sky to drop bombs on (or simply crash into) Navy ships. Antiaircraft ordnance was designed to explode at a set range or altitude, creating a barrier of flying shrapnel (flak) that planes had to penetrate at considerable risk. But dive bombers passed through that barrier too quickly for it to have much effect. And gunners couldn't adjust the shell's range rapidly enough to compensate.
(Source: Naval Historical Center)
The solution that arose was the invention of a radio proximity fuze that would detonate the shell when it neared a metallic object. Thus, the flak barrier (almost) always centered on the enemy aircraft's position. It provided a much more effective defense.
The wartime years helped establish the "corporate culture" at APL that I was indoctrinated into when I started working there three decades later. "We don't want the best fuze," their mantra went, "we want the first fuze."
During wartime, the armed forces couldn't wait for fine tuning. They needed something that worked better than what they had at keeping them alive -- even if it wasn't perfect. Some corollaries also arose: "There comes a point when it's time to shoot the engineer and get into production," and "Perfection is the enemy of excellence."
Commercial competition is a form of warfare, although the competition is far less intense, the consequences of failure less extreme, and the rules of conduct more genteel. Still, these same attitudes can apply to the kind of product development our community engages in today. People aren't literally dying while waiting for our designs to become available (typically), but arriving in the market too late can be fatal to a product's sales prospects. So, we work under constant pressure to act quickly. Accurately assessing when things are "good enough" can be the key to success.
It's true that a late entry into the market, an entry that is also greatly superior, can overtake earlier offerings. And an early entry that has significant flaws can fail if something better comes along quickly. But the later to market a product is, the more compelling the differences have to be to overcome the momentum an acceptable, earlier product can generate.
So, when management gives you impossible deadlines to meet, or forces you to finalize a design that you feel is not quite done, surrender your attachment to perfection and try to put the weaknesses that may remain in your design into perspective. The better you get at finding the optimum balance of timing and technology, the better for your career.