On Bottom Drawer Management

Effective action depends on correct assessment. Doctors know this. If their assessment is too narrow, the therapy prescribed will be ineffective or, at best, short-lived.

A good diagnostician will consider all possible causes for a particular condition, assessing each one to determine the active factors in the case at hand. Only then will the action treat the problem rather than merely mask its systems.

Managers face the same issue of correct assessment. They are, in addition, often working with the burden of a calendar shorter than the problem. This increases the frequency of narrow-scope review, and correspondingly the number of quick fixes attempted. Quick fixes are often chosen for their efficacy in disguising the problem without revealing underlying causes.

There are obvious defects in this kind of thinking, which I call “bottom drawer management” because the biggest issues end up at the bottom of a drawer somewhere instead of at the top of a plan of action. The first problem is a personal one of integrity: an intentional omission is no better than intentional commission.

For hide-and-seek management not to get entirely too messy, egregious and unprofitable, managers must be courageous and clear-minded – willing to correctly name the problem and list all the possible factors. Managers must also be flexible and adaptable – willing to grow in their jobs, but unwilling to outgrow integrity. The core strategy must prohibit the false convenience of passing problems forward.

If the cost of solving a problem is compounded by the hidden cost of letting it get worse before fixing it, a business cannot stay competitive. The success of companies which insist on full-scope, correct assessment and strong managerial ethics will outpace the company that allows bottom-drawer management to erode the margins.

Think what a change in the net profit with the cost of wrong-headedness saved, and what upbeat confidence would ripple through the ranks as these saved costs start to improve the company’s strength and flexibility in its marketplace.

Doing now what will have to be done later – what a way to bust out from the pack and become a leader!

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