I am looking for a phrase or saying that simplifies this sentiment.

When something is designed so well or a process works so well or a thing is executed so perfectly. Most people wouldn't even know it was working or happening.

As an example, in a similar concept: Let us say you make a major change in an IT infrastructure and no one has a clue it was done and no one complains. Then "No news is good news".

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    When you've done things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all. Especially in IT – Wes Sayeed Mar 4 '18 at 3:54
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    You could use this Wim Hovens quote: "Good design is in all the things you notice. Great design is in all the things you don’t." – Tushar Raj Mar 5 '18 at 7:46
  • Wes Sayeed and Tushar Raj these are actually exactly what I was trying to capture. I'm not sure how to promote these as answers, however, I did upvote them both. – keithD Mar 6 '18 at 14:10
  • @EdwinAshworth: Posted as an answer. – Tushar Raj Mar 8 '18 at 7:59
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    There are a number of good answers, all pointing towards something working perfectly, but I feel that they are all missing the point on the "going unnoticed" part. Not sure if it's all that important for the OP but I thought it would be an important aspect of the question – posdef Mar 8 '18 at 10:20

You could use this Wim Hovens quote:

Good design is in all the things you notice. Great design is in all the things you don’t.



I would say that such a product or process is a well-oiled machine: it's not "squeaking", so people don't even notice it running. From Wiktionary:

Something that operates capably through the effective coordination of many parts.

You could also just use well-oiled as an adjective, and talk about a well-oiled process or well-oiled transition.

  • I would say this also misses the mark a bit. Machines are typically seen or heard. Well-oiled is an observable process running smoothly. – keithD Mar 6 '18 at 16:50
  • I can see my car, but there are dozens (hundreds?) of component "machines" under the hood which I know absolutely nothing about...unless they start making a funny noise. Analogously, your business or government or whatever is visible, but so long as everything is well-oiled and running smoothly, no one will ever notice the component teams and processes that make up that larger entity. – 1006a Mar 6 '18 at 16:56

It runs like clockwork.

go like clockwork

to proceed, progress, or operate predictably and dependably.

Everything is going like clockwork, so we should be ready to start construction by the end of the month.

The conference went like clockwork from beginning to end.

Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc


go like clockwork

Fig. to progress with regularity and dependability.

The building project is progressing nicely.

Everything is going like clockwork. The elaborate pageant was a great success.

It went like clockwork from start to finish.

McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


go/run like ˈclockwork (of arrangements, etc.) happen according to plan, without any difficulty or trouble

The sports day went like clockwork, with every race starting and finishing on time.

Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

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    It's OK. But like clockwork emphasizes the regularity and dependability, not so much the invisibility. I think the question was more about the latter: something that works so well you don't even notice it. – Drew Mar 3 '18 at 23:47
  • @Drew I disagree. Clocks are on the wall, unnoticed - until someone wants to know the time. – Nigel J Mar 4 '18 at 1:44
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    @Drew I disagree. Except for the rare skeleton clock, the [clockwork] mechanism of [mechanical] clocks is working in the background. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 4 '18 at 10:36
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    @Drew I agree. Clocks working in the background isn't the property being highlighted in the phrase running like clockwork, imo. – Tushar Raj Mar 5 '18 at 7:41
  • This does miss what I am trying to achieve. Clocks are consistent, clock-work would be consistent. Also, clocks are very much noticed, that's why they were invented... so we can notice them. – keithD Mar 6 '18 at 14:26

This will most likely be useless to you, but there's a verse in Tao Te Ching that illustrates this idea in relation to people:

When the Master governs, the people

are hardly aware that he exists.

Next best is a leader who is loved.

Next, one who is feared.

The worst is one who is despised.

(I would have left this as a comment, but I can't leave comments yet)

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    It’s hard these days to find shared cultural references. – Global Charm Mar 4 '18 at 0:20

This is something I've thought about a lot because of my line of work, my best idea for now is "perfectly integrated". Something along the lines of inconspicuousness and compatability. Remarkable unremarkableness!



run like a top wikitionary

(simile, usually of motorized machinery) To operate flawlessly and smoothly.

    I've just tuned my car, and now it's **running like a top.**

Not sure if it really captures the idea you want to convey but something like:

"The recent IT restructuring went without a hitch... "


"The recent IT restructuring was carried out with no bumps along the way"

if you want to focus even more on the fact that the changes had no negative effects:

"The recent IT restructuring went well without rocking the boat at any stage"


"The recent IT restructuring went well without stirring the waters at any stage"

Then you can of course combine some of the answers, i.e.

"The recent IT restructuring ran like clockwork, without stirring the waters for the users."

Hope it helps


I'm sure your IT project is already finished and either you were sacked or no one noticed what a great job you did and they have just moved you onto the next project. But no one has mentioned this analogy.

What about the one about the little duckling gracefully gliding across the lake trying to keep up with its mother.. but underneath and out of view it's little feet are furiously paddling back and forth as he tries to keep up giving the illusion of effortlessness - but if you look closely at the little duckings eyes he is just about ready to either burst into tears or die of exhaustion.

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