Necessary is Better Than Sufficient

Sufficient means solved, necessary means better.

When we have an unmet need, our desire is to see that need met. When we have a project or task, we want to see it completed.

In order to meet a need or complete a project, there are usually several steps along the way. If there are 5 steps to a project, then each step is ‘necessary’, and all the steps, taken together, are ‘sufficient’ to complete the project.

For example, if I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the necessary components are:

  • Two slices of bread
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly
  • Assembling them correctly

Collectively, those are sufficient to deliver a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

So why is ‘necessary’ better than ‘sufficient?

When we only care about what is sufficient to deliver something, we can get lost in the complexity of a problem. We identify a few necessary steps, then a few more, and then a few more. We become overwhelmed with the long list of items required to allow us to sufficiently complete something.

Or we may not be able to identify every step along the way. When that happens, we fixate on that one necessary component that is missing and let that prevent us from making progress.

What if we took a different approach?

Instead of defining what is sufficient and waiting to start until we have all the necessary steps identified, what if we agreed that the problem was worth solving and then focused on the necessary steps we already know?

If I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the outcome I’m after is to become less hungry. I can achieve that outcome without all the sufficient parts of a PB&J sandwich.

If I have no jelly, I can make a peanut butter sandwich. If I also have no peanut butter, bread alone will reduce my hunger. And I can’t be the only one who has ever eaten peanut butter directly from the jar…that reduces hunger too.

If we agree that there is a problem worth solving, and we’re willing to focus first on necessary, not sufficient, then we can begin solving the problem more quickly.

And we may find that once we’ve delivered a few necessary steps towards a larger outcome, the rest of what we thought was necessary is suddenly less important. We may find that the effort to reach ‘sufficient’ was smaller than we originally assumed.

Sufficient means solved, necessary means better. Pick better and start sooner.