Cutting Corners – It happens to all of us

Recently, I was rushing home to make a spin class.  I was running late but luckily I am only 20 minutes away by car without traffic.  Hopping into my car I realized I was nearly out of gas; running on fumes.  Five minutes from my office there’s a gas station.  As I approached the station thoughts ran through my head, “I’m really low on gas,” “I’m already running late. If I stop I’ll be even later,” “I can make it to class.”  So I skipped it.  Well, guess who got stuck in traffic?

There I was, sitting in bumper to bumper traffic telling my car it wouldn’t run out of gas and telling myself I’d make it to class before the instructor shut me out.  And a thought came to me, “I should have just stopped for gas.”

The gas would have provided me with some security.  Now I was willing my car to the gym.  Getting gas was the less risky path and would have ensured me at least reaching my objective (spin class) even if I was a bit late.  I realized that by not getting the gas I was basically cutting corners and taking a larger risk.

Managers take risks all the time. It’s just part of running a business. There’s almost no such thing as a business that runs without risk.  But cutting corners is a very different story.

Cutting corners is doing things less than your best to achieve some end goal.  It’s usually not the best idea and outcomes are rarely what you had hoped.  It may feel like you’re making progress, but at the end of the day you’re not–in fact, in most cases you’re losing ground.  When you skip steps or ignore the process entirely, things are missed and mistakes are made.  When it becomes a habit, you won’t be prepared to do the right thing when it’s most important.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “It takes less time to do a thing right than it does to explain why you did it wrong,” and I couldn’t agree more.

More often than not, if you really assess the significance of the risk and reward of taking that short cut, you’d realize it’s not worth it.  If good processes aren’t followed, it costs more time and effort to correct the errors made or the problems caused just as Longfellow stated.  If a process has problems or is inefficient, then change or improvements need to be made.  Instead of skipping steps, take a step back, determine what will create some real value for your organization, and go do it right.  Cutting corners never creates value.

Incidentally, I did manage to make it to my spin class on time.  The traffic delayed me less than I thought, and my car made it to the gas station after class just fine. I’ve learned my lesson for next time though – do it right the first time and you won’t be worrying about the “what ifs”. The stress and alternative were not worth the risk. Like the old saying – Peace of mind is worth its weight in gold.

Kimberly Kelsey, Marketing Manager, Red Book Solutions

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