Why prevention is not always better than cure.

It was 2006, and I had just handed in the letter. The letter, as in the resignation letter. It was off to Australia in a month’s time, so I had to say goodbye to the workplace. My decision came as a surprise to everyone, since I had not made any mention of my impending departure.

The manager then got me into a meeting room, wanting to have a chat about this whole deal and to see if he could change my mind.

Now I’m an idealistic sort of person, always wanting to do the right thing and the best thing. Things at the work place back then were.. let us say inefficient. There were a lot of processes that were cumbersome and wasted a lot of time.

For example, a customer’s order had to be signed off by three different managers before it could be processed. This meant the hapless engineer had to spend his time chasing the managers, who were usually not at their desks. Cue delays on provisioning and wasted time, which could have been spent on other tasks.

Needless to say, I was quite frustrated at things like these, so it all came gushing out. Surprisingly, my manager understood what I was saying. I was ranting about the ineffectiveness of things, and about the futility of trying to change things. He brought another perspective that I did not quite understand back then, but have since grown to come to terms with, if not quite accept.

“Sometimes, you have to let things happen, just so that management understands there is a problem and it needs fixing. Working together to keep things working only tells management this: there is no problem.

It was an alien concept to me. Not fix things before they become a disaster, but instead fold your arms and watch as the fireworks cascade, just to let the guys up there learn something? I was mystified. It was like living in some strange reality that did not make sense. Not favour preemptive measures over firefighting disasters? The world was moving in some distorted direction that I could not comprehend in the least.

These past years have done nothing but prove this same fact, over and over again. Criticism is not taken kindly all the time. Feedback does not always travel to the top, and even when it does, management as a whole are more often than not obstinate and insistent in their views. The only way to prove them wrong, is to dish the advice, then sit back. Let the situation play itself out, allow things to go out of control, and let everyone see where the problem lies.

I for one will never accept this approach, but I’m a realist. If this confounded answer is the quickest way to make things happen, then I’m all for it. A sad reality, and a strange world we live in, is it not?

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