I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” This has been one of my fundamental guidelines for almost as long as I’ve been a leader. I’ve seen it so many times. Leaders get bored and think they need to “meddle” in something that doesn’t need attention. Based on a “feeling” or “intuition,” they focus on something just fine as is.
Or, worse yet, a leader who thinks “the problem” is this when it’s that. How do we know, as leaders, what should demand our attention?
I want to pause here for just a moment to point out a crucial distinction. There’s a difference between “continuous improvement” and an emotional (or other gut feelings) need to “fix” something that’s not broken. Can just about everything be improved? Sure. We’re talking about making decisions to improve a system or process based on something other than a “gut feel” or “opinion” that it’s broken. Whether it’s continuous improvement or some major issue that needs to be fixed immediately, “data” is required to make any decisions.
As senior leaders, the first question we must ask when we’re told that something needs to be fixed is “Why?” We should say, “Show me the data.” When we’re told there’s no data, our response should be, “Then why do you think it needs to be fixed? Go collect some data and come back and see me.”
“What about those things that are hard to measure?” you might be thinking. I say, “There’s no such thing.” I agree many systems are difficult to measure, but for the most part, everything can be measured. Remember, feedback from those involved in the process, opinion surveys, etc., is “data.”