I consider myself to be pretty handy around the house. I’ve built things, made furniture, and installed appliances with some decent success. Some of the things I don’t like to do are automotive work and plumbing.
Maybe I’m just better with wood, I just don’t get the satisfaction from those other activities. So when I do plumbing and automotive, my goal is to get it done rather than to enjoy it. This takes away a lot of motivation to do it right.
Unfortunately, I don’t always get it right. If a hose in my car is leaking, rather than taking the time to go to the automotive store and get a new one, I’m much more likely to do something like duct taping the leak to put the issue behind me.
As you may know, duct tape doesn’t last forever. I may end up doing it multiple times.
Duct taping business solutions
We see that in the business world a lot. An issue comes up. We do some investigation and find out that there is a duct tape solution, and a more solid, long-term solution. On a fairly consistent basis, the long-term solution is the much more expensive solution. It will take more time, more money, and more resources to solve it that way.
The duct tape solution is usually much cheaper. We can implement it with limited funds and it will take less time. Then we can get back to business.
The problem is, it may cause additional issues as a side effect. Or it may just resolve the issue temporarily. If you have to spend time, money, and resources multiple times to fix it, you may end up spending more on duct tape than on fixing it right the first time.
The cheapest approach is not always the best long term solution.
Find the root cause
Sometimes, we apply the duct tape solution unknowingly. We identify a problem and a solution seems obvious. For instance, imagine a situation where a software application continues to go down. Restarting the application and sometimes restarting the server that it runs on fixes the problem. Each time this happens, it brings down the application for five to fifteen minutes.
The restarts are seemingly inexpensive. It only takes an operator a few minutes to perform the action. However, since customers use this application, it affects customer satisfaction during these restarts.
When the manager of the application learned about the restarts, she started to ask what was causing the issue. Nobody knew. They just kept performing the restarts.
The manager asked the team to investigate the root cause of the issue. After three days of investigation, an analyst determined that to fix the application, it would take eighty hours.
Solve it once
The manager calculated the internal cost of the investigation and the fix to be about $12,000. She also made the determination that they risk losing sales every time they do a restart.
She determined that if they lost a sale every time they did the restart, the cost of the restarts would exceed the $12,000 cost within three months. Instead of continuing to restart the application every time there was a problem, she decided that it was a better long-term solution to fix the code in the application.
It is not always the case that solving the root cause is cheaper. But it is always worth doing the investigation to determine the true root cause. Comparing the cost of fixing the real problem or fixing the symptoms will give greater insight. You may find that to solve it once is cheaper than the duct tape.
How have you spent more on duct tape than to solve it once?
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
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