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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It!

 Are you the kind of person that likes to tinker with things to optimize performance?  I am!  It is hard for me to see devices without trying to improve the performance.  Sometimes, this activity overlaps into managing a business.  People look at how well something is performing and they want to improve it.

This happened recently at a local restaurant.  While the owner decided to sell the business, the new owner took over and revised the total menu on day one.  The new menu was enough different that those people that frequented the location, seem to be greatly reduced in number.  The changes may have worked well if done over a longer period.  Perhaps customers would have adjusted better, but the immediate adjustment seems to be a problem; at least for the short term.

Once I hired an outside program manager to run research studies for a business.  Extensive reference checks and analysis of prior performances showed the individual to be a stellar find.  A key program was handed to the individual to manage and performance was excellent as expected.  I wanted to fine tune the program and bring control in house!  I retained a search firm to hire an in house program manager.  The search firm brought a fantastic candidate, which we immediately hired at a great salary plus options.  The new hire was tasked with management of the overall program including external projects and people.  The result was a bit like having “Gasoline and a Match.”  The whole thing blew up due to personality differences between the two great people.  Fine-tuning did not deliver the anticipated results.

When I was younger, I liked to tinker with an old car I drove.  I always was trying to make it run smoother or faster.  My mechanical knowledge is minimal so tinkering was exactly what I was doing.  When I would take it to my mechanic, he would have to fix what I had messed up much of the time.  Finally out of frustration he turned to me and said, “if it ain’t broke, don’t  fix it!”  (Remember I am from the SOUTH.)

The saying stuck with me all these years.  Fact is it fits with business and most situations.  When you have something running smoothly, you always stand the chance of screwing it up by tinkering with it.  You are always better off by real analysis of the situation and determination of exactly what you intend to accomplish.  You will likely not always get the outcome you thought you would obtain.  So be cautions that when fixing something that is not broken, you don’t do more harm than good.