Sep 12, 2023

If it’s broke, don’t fix it

Broken Tree, Winston Salem, NC

The following feature article was written by Dr. Gary Daynes, ISA Strategic Partner and leader of Back Porch Consulting.

At any time in any organization, there is more broken than can be fixed. It will be the temptation to downplay that truth, to try to fix everything broken that you see.  This is, after all, how leaders come to lead–by making things better. And at most institutions, there is enough broken that fixing things–making them better–is pressing, enticing labor for the people whose job it is to manage the institution towards improvement.

But fixing things well is vexing work. There are more things that degrade than can be replaced, deferred maintenance is everywhere. There are people at the organization who do things in ways that seem to you not to work, but they do them with devotion. There are broken things that, in their broken-ness, matter deeply to your institution. There are things broken in comparison–other institutions have a better version, a more efficient process, a nicer object than does yours. Fixing those things may be an act of envy not improvement. There are solution-sellers intent on making you see that the existence of their tool obliges you to use it on a problem you didn’t know you had. There are problems beyond your power to fix. And most vexing of all, you may fix something well without the institution itself working better.

There is no way out of this muddle. But at the very least, acknowledge that there are many broken things that cannot or ought not be fixed. This simple acknowledgement turns your attention away from seeking a solution to every problem. It heightens the honesty with which you face your work. Rather than solving as many problems as you can, your work is to determine what truly matters, and focus only there. For what remains, tell yourself this: if it’s broke, don’t fix it. 

No Comments

  1. Lee Thomsen on October 10, 2023 at 7:42 pm

    Wow! The headline grabbed my attention, and the article is really interesting. I appreciate the idea that we can focus on all those things we do well. Perfection is the enemy of good!
    Nice one.

  2. Ian on October 12, 2023 at 12:25 pm

    Thanks Lee. It is a different way of thinking!

Leave a Comment