The HeadScratcher Post Archive
May 2010
If it ain't broke ...
       May 2010 The Headscratcher Post © Headscratchers LLC    Edition 61

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If it ain't broke ...

You know the expression .. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  Does this mean that you should wait until something breaks and then fix it?  This can be a very costly.   For example, should you wait for a nuclear power plant to break and then fix it?   How about a production line if you wait for it to break you might have a lot of down time.  Or a process wait until that breaks and customers, products, decisions, etc., can be severely impacted.

Maybe the expression means, “If it’s working well, don’t mess with it”.  But then again, how do you know it’s working well, if you don’t check on how well it’s working?

This is why “Preventative Maintenance” was invented. A good preventative maintenance program uses a statistical probability that something will break over time, such as mean time to failure.  This ensures that work is done at a frequency that will minimize failure, without wasting resources.  We conduct preventative maintenance on many of our physical assets; such as air conditioners, cars, manufacturing lines, and sometimes even on our bodies.

BUT do we conduct preventative maintenance on “soft assets”, such as our processes, our organization, or our relationships?  What about the expression, “Your competitive advantage, left unchanged will eventually become your competitive disadvantage”.   Hey, the world changes.  The needs of customers change, technology changes, attitudes and skills all change.  If you don’t apply "preventative maintenance" on your processes, your organization and relationships, then overtime, they will break.

Consider creating a simple method of evaluating a process, or state, to understand if anything has changed, or is wearing out (or getting mundane).   Once a year, ask a question about your processes, for example, “Is there anything new and/or learned over the past year that would indicate that our process is in need of modification”?  Or, “Are we organized this way  because we are used to it, or is this organization still optimal to achieve our objectives”?

The Takeaway: Don’t go around “fixing” everything just because one day it will break. Do consider understanding the appropriate time to “check in” and ask if it’s time to conduct some preventative maintenance before the probability that it will break gets too high.  Do this with both physical assets, and soft assets like processes, organizations, and even your relationships.

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