The HeadScratcher Post Archive
September 2006
Everything is Throw-Away

The Headscratcher Post    


September  2006               The Headscratcher Post ©  Headscratchers LLC           Edition 17


Everything is Throw-Away.   Once upon a time, a computer programmer was asked to implement a feature in a way that would clearly be discarded in a few months with the creation of the more general solution.  He responded, “That would just be throw-away work”, and huffed at the mere mention of it.   Yet, when asked if he thought his code would last for 50 years, he laughed and responded “of course not”. 


The difference between 3 months and 50 years.  Which would you prefer … an effort that after 3 months was discarded or an effort that lasted for 50 years?  What if the first effort, the one discarded after 3 months, resulted in closing $10 Million worth of business, while the later effort, the one that lasted 50 years, took too long and never amounted to anything of significance.


It’s the economy, stupid.  No disrespect to computer programmers, or politicians, intended.  It’s the Return on the investment, the ROI that is important.  What is the investment compared with the return of that investment?    EVERYTHING is throw-away in time.  The level of anxiety about creating something that is throw-away should only be around the ROI, the benefit.


The Benefit lasts forever.  Another way to think about “Throw-away” is that while the actual work might be discarded, the benefit lives on and becomes a building block of the future.   The code, the sweat, the care to get the result, the journey to get there, becomes a fond memory of how the benefit was achieved and a future built.  The benefit becomes part of the future, which lasts forever.


“Everything is Throw-away” applies everywhere.  We build buildings only to knock them down in later years to build something that is more energy efficient, can hold more capacity, and can give a higher ROI.  We buy computers to use today, knowing that in 3-4 years they are outdated and replaced.   Sadly, we invest time to build personal relationships in business, often to lose contact years after the business reasons fade.  We spend hours preparing the Thanksgiving Feast, only to see it served, eaten and cleaned up in one third the time it took to prepare it … WHY? … because there is an ROI, a result, a personal satisfaction that is “worth it”, and that benefit becomes the foundation of the future … and lasts forever.


The Takeaway.  The next time someone proclaims, “That’s just throw away work”, your response could be “Of course, everything is throw away, let’s look at the benefits to see if the ROI and the Future are worth it”.  People won’t mind investing energy into something when they see the benefit, even if the work is discarded shortly afterwards.


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