when an ounce of prevention isn’t worth a pound of cure

Putting together the piecesI think it was Ben Franklin who wisely advised that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  For sure, I've yet to encounter a problem whose cure was less expensive than what it would have cost to avoid it in the first place.    Some organizations consciously choose not to invest in that "ounce of prevention," believing their resources are better directed elsewhere.  Others neglect to invest because they are unaware of either potential problems or preventative measures.   Whatever the reason, problems ultimately result, and we then have to invest in a cure. 

Or do we?

One of the unique values my firm provides in serving the distinctive needs of the "main street" entrepreneur and small business owner lies with providing our clients that proverbial "ounce of prevention" across several functional areas of their operations.  One of the areas to which we devote a fair amount of attention is the structuring of workflow and institutional knowledge.  Where there's workflow and knowledge, technology is not far behind. 

I recently read  an article directed to project management professionals in the world of information technology (IT).   For the uninitiated, IT folks are the guys and gals at work who get excited about technology and data.  We like doing things to improve the quality of information.  We like doing things to improve access to that information.   We get especially excited about creating tools and processes that manipulate and analyze that information to provide useful insights.  

The article mentioned above was apparently one of several the author had written on the subject of "information silos."   For us geeks (and some executives), these silos represent significant obstacles to achieving the things we are passionate about (see previous paragraph).    In pursuit of our raison d'etre, it's easy to lose perspective.   We're not alone here.  What I liked about this author's perspective, however, was her admitted transformation into adopting a more holistic approach to her particular role:

"Whether it's information integration or automation, companies too often start bulldozing to build a new solution when they should first... learn more about the existing solution...  [then] they might realize that while the current approach might not be eloquent or perfect; it works – and that's no small thing."

In essence,  she has recognized that what represents a monumental problem for one business role (IT) , does not equate to a monumental problem for the business as a whole.   This takes real perspective, and is one flavor of how good business folks maximize impact and minimize risk.

When it comes to positioning new ventures and small businesses for success, there is little margin for error.  Put simply, these organizations cease to exist if they invest time, money and energy in efforts that fail to produce swift and substantial results for their operations.    If you're going to succeed, you quickly learn which problems need to be solved and which don't. 

So the next time you're facing a "monumental" problem, think like an entrepreneur or small business owner.  Though this problem may loom large for you, is a solution really critical to achieving the bigger picture?  Yes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  That ounce may only be of value, however, if the cure is truly necessary.

connecting the dots

connecting the piecesMy warped mind will often make a connection between two or more totally unrelated things.  I figure these episodes represent either flashes of incredible insight or proof I belong in a rubber-walled room with no windows.   As I can't judge the difference, I usually keep these musings to myself  (for 'tis better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt).  Today, however, I am compelled to share some recent "episodes."   I'm convinced there's a valuable lesson hidden in here somewhere.  Perhaps I'll be inspired by the time I finish organizing my thoughts.

act I - search optimization strategies and social media diarrhea

I haven't written a blog post since the beginning of last month.  Search ranking gurus would declare this a failure.  Neglect to churn out fresh content, and your site will dive in search rankings.  The lower your ranking, the less likely those searching on the internet for your kind of products, services or expertise will stumble upon you.  These experts are right.

If you've read this far, here comes your first (and perhaps only) pay-off.  Late last week, a neighbor and friend (Kel Kelly) wrote an awesome blog post about social media diarrhea.  Kel has forgotten more about effective branding, communications and marketing than many of her colleagues will learn in a lifetime.  Her post has nothing to do with search ranking strategies, however.  It has everything to do with what she achieves for her clients :: being seen, heard,  and understood.   

What a business needs to do to assure its message gets heard above the noise doesn't always harmonize with what it needs to do to assure high search result rankings.   Smaller organizations, especially those relying upon outside vendors, often lack the ability to identify these kinds of connections across separate but related strategies.   When you get right down to it, so do many larger organizations.   Make your business one of the few that can tie these kinds of things together, and you'll have a leg up on your competition.

act II - groupthink

I recently had the "pleasure" of observing my town planning board in action.   Staffed by volunteers (elected positions), this board had just imposed a fine against a fellow resident for failing to secure the town's prior review (and permit) before cutting down an allegedly diseased tree on his property.   One issue that apparently arose during the hearing was whether this resident was even aware of the local regulation and process that ultimately led to this fine.

One of the board members called into question the veracity of the resident's purported "ignorance."  She was adamant that the designation making this resident's property subject to the regulation at issue is constantly publicized in local news stories and related outlets.  She claimed it is widely known and recognized among our fellow townsfolk.

Now I have lived in this town for almost 20 years.  I have served in town government for half this time.  As local government goes, I am probably more "plugged in" than most.  I do not recall ever having encountered the purported publicity suggested by this board member, nor was I aware the designation she claimed is so widely known applied to the street on which this resident's property was located.  None of her colleagues challenged or questioned the vailidity of her statements.  A vote was taken shortly after her comments, and a substantial fine was imposed.

Following this proceeding, there was a general discussion regarding policy.  The same member I describe above called for expanding the regulation throughout the entire town, thereby eliminating any confusion over which sections of town are subject to this process.  I'm still trying to recognize and understand the significant public interest at issue that warrants such an intrusion on individual property rights.   Though some of her colleagues remarked this may not be the best solution, the group dynamic was one of acceptance and acquiescense to a colleague's perspective rather than of testing and questioning.

Having witnessed all of this, I started thinking about the negative consequences of such "groupthink."  Wikipedia provides a  good description of this phenomenon:          

...Groupthink is a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. Individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking are lost in the pursuit of group cohesiveness, as are the advantages of reasonable balance in choice and thought that might normally be obtained by making decisions as a group.  During groupthink, members of the group avoid promoting viewpoints outside the comfort zone of consensus thinking. A variety of motives for this may exist such as a desire to avoid being seen as foolish, or a desire to avoid embarrassing or angering other members of the group. Groupthink may cause groups to make hasty, irrational decisions, where individual doubts are set aside, for fear of upsetting the group’s balance...

It struck me this phenomenon must be rampant throughout most organizations.  When we're part of the process, it's especially difficult to recognize.  After all, we're acting instinctually when this occurs.  How many flawed processes and decisions are perpetuated because of these natural forces?


So, what's the connection among all these things?  I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the need to challenge convention and connecting everything you're working on in order to truly stand out and be successful.  At least that's my story, and I'm sticking to it for now.  What do you think?