It’s Better To Fix Problems Than To Prevent Them

I was discussing a particularly vexing circumstance with a friend recently. He was describing his attempt to gain consensus from different divisions within his client’s company to agree on a plan of action that he had proposed. The trouble was that there were divisions who appeared very insistent that nothing be done for fear of making mistakes. Without strong leadership in the situation, the process remained somewhat convoluted and ultimately un-ambitious.

It made me think about the role of leadership and management as either (1) promoting getting something done, moving things forward, producing…or (2) considering, minimizing risk and preventing errors. So I Googled. I found a quote by Ed Catmull of Pixar, a rather productive and creative company, who has a certain point of view that’s a bit different.

“The notion that you’re trying to control the process and prevent error screws things up. We all know the saying ‘it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission’. And everyone knows that, but I think there is a corollary: “If everyone is trying to prevent error, it screws things up. It’s better to fix problems than to prevent them’. And the natural tendency for managers is to try and prevent error and over plan things.”

And speaking of over-planning, it’s often called “Decisioneering” which is the over-engineering of a simple decision because you can. In fact by using Decisioneering often the event that drove the decision point is over, closed out and has expired by the time the Decisioneered solution has been finalized. (from Urban Dictionary)

For example:

“A committee of analysts commenced a Decisioneering process on how to best go about killing a fly. They considered using a flyswatter, as well as researching, proposing, socializing, re-researching, re-proposing, many other ideas. In the end they decisioneered an elaborate, well researched, and effective Rube Goldberg device. Only then did they notice that the fly had left the room.”


One thought on “It’s Better To Fix Problems Than To Prevent Them

  1. Agreed. It’s absolutely true when you are going to have a brainstorming session – People always not focus in “generating” new ideas but are “picky” on the new ideas.

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