Thursday, January 6, 2011

Foundation-Building Versus Fire-Fighting

Each day, we only have so many hours available to us.

We are able to choose how to spend those hours.

My experience in business over the last decade (yeah, that is hard to believe) has led me to conclude that too much time is spent on fire-fighting and not enough time is spent on foundation-building.

What are some examples of fire-fighting? Perhaps, it is the quality issue that reoccurs every few months (or years). Some quick fire-fighting fixes the problem for the moment but it comes back again. Or maybe it is dealing with the latest, super-hot quote that requires rummaging through packets of data and using various calculators to determine the necessary inputs for the costing system.

So why is fire-fighting so attractive? It offers the opportunity to be heroic - to save the day. In the midst of many fires, sometimes the only possible reaction is to fire-fight. And of course, it requires a fire-fighter.

I wonder if the time spent on fire-fighting would be better spent on foundation-building. Sure, results might not be immediate. The return on investment might be a month, year, or decade (gasp). However, eventually, that reoccurring quality problem would no longer be a problem. The customer would input his or her own design parameters on a website and obtain a quote immediately. Eventually, the time spent on putting out fires would be used to continuously improve.

Sounds like a pretty sweet deal.

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