Friday, March 23, 2012

Do not take the Easy Way

A while ago, I was at a local gas station pumping gas. While I looked around, I could see a customer inside having a long conversation with the cashier. There was lots of headshaking, gestures, and turning back and forth to look out the window. All of this activity piqued my interest. The customer eventually made his way out of the building and headed towards his car. He stopped before getting in and then walked over to me.

He politely asked if I could tell him the best way to get to his destination. I started to give him directions for the shortest route to his destination. I quickly noted the glazed look on his face as he checked the piece of paper in his hand. It was apparent he was greatly confused. It was then I noticed a key piece of information. His car had out of state license plates.

“You are from out of town.” I observed. To which he replied that he indeed was from nowhere near here. I then said, “So you don’t want the fastest way, or the shortest way, but the simplest way.” He grinned, the clouds above parted, birds perched high in the trees began to sing forth as he said, “That is indeed what I need.” With that word of affirmation, I gave him directions for the simplest way to his destination. It may have been a few minutes longer than the fastest way, or a few miles longer than the shortest way, but it was the least complicated way, and for him, the best way.

My dad used to tell me not to take the easy way when I was working on something. Back then, I thought he just took great joy in making my life more difficult. I could not understand why I should not do things the easy way. He also would instruct me, especially when working on broken vehicles, “Do things the simple way.” For him, doing something the easy way meant cutting corners simply to finish the job; simple meant to do it straightforward, without unnecessary complications.

I know of a company whose management team confused easy and simple. It was laughable. I mean that it really was funny. If something happened that needed  addressing, management created a new form. Damage to building-- management designs a new form. Horrible disfiguring accident--a new form. Someone embezzles from the company-- yep, you know it, a new form.

I want to inform you, in case you were not already aware, forms do not change things; and forms do not make life better. If you do not believe me, you have not visited the Department of Motor Vehicles or done your taxes in the past 75 years.
 The managers at this company would eagerly tell you they made difficult decisions, but every time I heard a manager say, “We have had a difficult decision to make.” it really meant, “We could no longer ignore the difficult decision we should have made months ago and so today we have finally done what we should have.”

Designing a form simply puts off action, and putting off action, hoping the problem resolves itself, rarely works. Now I must go and start dinner, although I am not sure what to make. Of course, I cannot remember what we have had for the past week, perhaps, if I designed a grid to fill in the menu for every day of the week… 

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