A recent psychology report I read detailed strategies on how to best assist, as a carer, a close relative needing help. The report thoroughly diagnosed the problem then provided a large list of strategies to address the problem.
Some strategies were designed to improve the problem in the long term. Others were actions to relieve the present stress that was occurring. They did not mend the issue, just provided short term relief. These latter reactive short term remedies I call “Band-Aids”.
Band-Aids are fabulous in the short term. They protect the wound; generally prevent it from further damage and allow us to get on with our lives. However if the wound is deep the Band-Aid will be insufficient to prevent the injury worsening, which will result in more Band-Aids being required. Think of a simple sprain; a Band-Aid provides minimal support and there is a high risk of further twisting and damage. Rest and an ankle support for sport in the future are the preventative measure.
In the corporate world we see Band-Aids. They are reactive solutions when a little proactive planning would provide a better solution and service. More problematic is the fact many times the initial Band-Aids are left on too long and they become stuck (and you can feel the pain of that)! We come to rely on Band-Aids instead of working on healing the wound.
Everyday examples are:
- Becoming reliant on a colleague to complete tasks using software tools because we don’t take the time to learn them ourselves
- Covering team skill gaps with consultants or contractors who possess required skills
- More, expensive, resources (often exceeding budgets) are thrown into projects at the last minute to meet deadlines.
Band-Aids give the appearance that all is well, but underneath the cover up you may find some ugly things festering. Tasks not completed to the desired quality or efficiency, inconsistencies in product quality, inequity in service delivery and dissatisfied staff leaving. Even worse dissatisfied customers may be leaving (or tragically they may even die). Sounds like nasty stuff.
To reduce the reliance on Band-Aids teams need to be proactive about putting in place the long term solutions. Often long-term solutions are not as dramatic or sexy. That is, they have very little immediate effect and make little noise, but even the healing of the largest wound begins with a small simple stitch.
Businesses need to assign time, effort, and in some cases, funds to long term solutions, such as:
- ensuring staff possess fundamental operational skills
- investing in staff development strategies to upskill or cross-skill existing staff
- implementing a quality control system to monitor consistency of product or service delivery
- developing improved project management skills and methods to improve project delivery within budget and on time.
- designing and acting on a customer feedback system to ensure continuous product improvement.
So the next time you reach for the packet of Band-Aids take a moment to think about whether this really is a sufficient solution for your business. Or would it be better to apply the ultimate solution as the first step?