As long as the world keeps turning, tomorrow is going to have a habit of sneaking up on us when we're not looking. It's not that I don't like tomorrows, mind you. Some of my fondest memories have been tomorrows, although pursuing that line of pretzel logic much further is likely to loosen my rather tenuous grasp on reality. Nonetheless, the fact remains that we very often find ourselves in possession of a day for which we weren't entirely prepared. As anyone who's ever been caught with their pretzels down can attest, this can be a bit embarrassing to say the least.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the modern workplace. It's been said that whenever you have 3 or more people gathered in the same room, you'll have politics. Having spent more time in rooms that meet this mathematical stipulation than is healthy for any sane creature, I can attest to the wisdom of this statement. One might think that if a company plans on being around for a long time, its people would routinely think about the future. Of course, as anyone who's experienced these little adventures knows, most people only think that far forward in time when they're in a movie theater watching tales from a galaxy far, far away. Instead, it's all too common for people to put out the fire at their feet with a quick fix sure to have disastrous consequences somewhere down the line.
It's not that I'm unsympathetic to those who find themselves with problems to solve. I'm not crazy about crispy toes myself, so I'm all for putting out fires quickly. However, more often than not, I find myself not at the beginning of these scenarios but at the end, shaking my head and wondering how my predecessors could have implemented their plan without knowing that at some point in the future a guy like me would be cleaning up the mess they created.
In truth, there's really no mystery to this at all. Those who created the problems that you're now coping with knew full well that their quick fix was not a good long term solution. They just didn't care. Why? Short term thinking, driven by personal self interest. In other words, they just wanted to solve the problem quickly and look good to their boss. The solution didn't have to be a permanent one, provided it lasted long enough for them be somewhere else when the consequences hit the fan. And so, here we sit, trying to straighten out difficulties that should never have come to pass which are often worse than the original ones.
For any of you who have your pocket calculator handy, the math on this approach doesn't look good from the company's point of view. At best, it's wasting time and resources in solving the same problem more than once in a one step forward, one step back dance of deteriorating profits. At worst, each short sighted action actually harms the company in the long run, making it more vulnerable to the competitors who would love to raid your business, rustle your cattle and leave you for dead.
But hey, as long as you can position yourself to avoid the consequences of the quick fix, why should you care? Well, the funny thing about companies is that when they go out of business, they take your paycheck with them. Like it or not, the health and well being of your company is critical to your personal ability to enjoy the good life.
Healthy companies have more wealth to share than struggling ones. Instead of a quick & dirty approach, take the time to employ long term thinking so that the paycheck you love so much will still be around tomorrow. Besides, by some ironic twist of fate, you might even find yourself stuck with cleaning up that mess when tomorrow finally does arrive.