Sunday, April 22, 2012

If it is working well, tamper with it

Some rules or heuristics are accepted without any resistance. One such rule is 'If it is working, do not change anything'. Flip side of the same rule is "It it is  not broken, do not fix it'. It is time to find what is wrong with this rule.

When we succeed in producing any significant outcome, the output is always a result due to many supporting elements 'falling in place'. ( Law of output emergence) This law tells us that we can only influence output. Output emerges out of 'action and reactions caused by many variables', some of which are controlled by you. But , along with your actions, the outcome is created because other variables 'interact due to actions (and reactions) which are outside your control'. 

As we are ignorant of this law of output emergence, we wrongly ascribe the successful output to our efforts, hard work, commitment or sincerity. We are therefore not ready for facing the eventual 'failure to produce output' when it happens later. We fall victim to 'Sehwag syndrome'

When Virendra Sehwag was playing his 'brand' of cricket, everyone felt that he can continue to play like that for eternity. When he lost his place in the ODI/test side in 2005-2006, it shocked everyone. He then tried to 'tamper' his game. It took him very very long time before he managed to 'revive' his game to come back in form after a long hiatus of two years. Many players do not get a second chance like Virender Sehwag. Most of them give up and never manage to recover the old form, because trying to 'tamper' something that is working in times of 'failure' is more difficult. 

While 'succeeding', we have confidence on our side. More importantly, we have 'options' that we can exercise. We have 'space' and freedom to change. But trying to 'tamper' in times of 'failure' is doubly difficult: because we neither have the confidence, nor the necessary 'options' ( or space) to manoever. As we are already failing, we are under pressure to 'perform', robbing us of all the options to  'adjust'. Therefore 'when it is broken, it is not a proper time to fix it'. Instead 'When it is not broken, it is a proper time to fix it'

The same rule applies to corporate executives. When their projects and assignments are working, when they are producing outputs that are rewarded by management, when 'results' are flowing, it is the time to 'take chances'. 

It is the time to tamper with 'different variables' to find 'which variable does not work'. One can discover the power of 'simple variables' that are hidden out of sight because one cannot imagine that it works. It is time to experiment with new approaches and test the waters to find 'what does not work'. It is time to appreciate the limitations of one's own efforts in producing the resulting output. 

All these learnings will allow you to face the time when you are not able to produce the desired outputs. This will allow you to 'avoid' costly blunders which will further drag you into the muck. And it will teach you to be 'patient' when the 'circumstances' are not arraigned on your side. 

But this can happen only when you break the rule, " If it is working, do not tamper with it'. Instead of following this rule 'If it ain't broken, do not fix it', you have to adapt a new rule ' If it ain't broken, it is the right time to fix it'

Are you ready to break this rule so that your one-shot success does not remain a flash in a pan? 

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