Alan Weiss’s Monday Morning Memo® – 5/15/2023
I was introduced to my wife’s friend’s husband at dinner one night. Despite my attempts to avoid it, he wanted to know what I did and when I briefly explained, he asked if I could give him some advice. I said, “Sure, after my next martini.”
“You haven’t finished your first,” he observed.
“Trust me, I’m having a second.”
After patiently waiting he told me that he had discovered a huge problem in responding to client requests (he owned an accounting firm). The request required three people to handle and approve, and sometimes one of them was away or otherwise occupied. So, he created “deputies” empowered to act in such absences.
“What do you think?” he said.
“I think that you should empower the first person to respond and eliminate the other two and their involvement. Have you considered that, or is this just the way the system has always been?”
“It is,” he admitted, and said that he would try to find out why they were requiring the involvement of the other two people.
This isn’t unusual. It’s a phenomenon I’ve coined as “optimizing sub-optimal systems.” It’s when you keep pouring oil into the engine instead of fixing or replacing the engine (or the car). It’s when you place a shim under a table leg instead of fixing it and wind up spilling the red wine on your best friend’s wife’s white skirt. It’s when they ask you to shout and keep repeating yourself because the tinny speakers at Dunkin’ Donuts’s drive thru are so awful.
When you have a problem, don’t automatically try to restore past performance and repair the system. Improve the system and create better performance.
Otherwise, we’d all still be oiling and greasing garage door mechanisms so they’d be easier to lift when we got out of the car.
Some very poor countries run great vaccination systems, and some richer ones run terrible programs. —Bill Gates
Companies spend millions of dollars on firewalls, encryption, and secure access devices and it’s money wasted because none of these measures address the weakest link in the security chain: the people who use, administer, operate and account for computer systems that contain protected information. —Kevin Mitnick
Knowing reality means constructing systems of transformations that correspond, more or less adequately, to reality. —Jean Piaget