If It Ain’t Broke…
Many years ago I interviewed for an internship. The interviewer asked what I would be if I had to be a household item. I said toilet paper, because everyone takes it for granted when it’s there. But when it is not, we find ourselves in some deep shiitake. But maybe I should have said scotch tape. It’s equally indispensable, but less gross and much more PC for an internship at a public accounting firm.
At work, many process workarounds are “scotch tape” fixes, where an inexpensive and non-invasive solution is applied to prevent a problem from getting worse. While it doesn’t solve the problem, this type of fixes stops the bleeding temporarily.
It’s deliciously tempting to devise small workarounds to everything that’s not working quite right, because it’s an easy and fast way to make do for a just a little while longer. But eventually, and inevitably, this leads to us finding ourselves navigating through processes wrapped up and held together with a lot of tape.
Part of thriving professionally is being able to execute and make an impact at work. Both are hard to do when we have to stumble through small but frequent workarounds throughout the day in order to get things done.
How much metaphorical scotch tape is keeping you from doing your best work? Here are some indicators of taped together stuff that are perhaps ripe for more permanent solutions, for the sake of maintaining your team’s professional standards as well as your own workplace sanity:
- The same kind of fire drills that happen over and over again
- Extra work and documentation created and maintained solely to satisfy compliance or audit
- Ongoing checklists and reports that have to be compiled manually
- Having to choose between form and substance. Having to choose form over substance
- An incredible amount of “heads down” work that is borderline administrative in nature
So, even if it ain’t completely broken, sometimes it is better to just skip the easy temporary fix and choose an enduring solution instead.