Edit ModuleShow Tags

The baling-wire-and-braces strategy


Driving across Wyoming on a recent vacation, we saw a house that was held together with more baling wire and braces than joists and concrete. You could almost see how it got that way.

The porch started to sag, so they built some temporary stairs a few feet away. It was a slight inconvenience but got the job done until the porch sagged further. The fence started to list so they added some temporary braces.

It didn’t look good, but they held it together for the short term. The shingles on the roof were torn off so they temporarily put up a piece of sheet metal to cover the bad spot. It was noisy and looked odd, but it worked in the short term.

I suspect that the people living there didn’t even notice the workarounds or the inconvenience that they were caused. It’s like gaining a couple pounds per year. You’re OK for a few years, but one day, you’re very overweight!

Many organizations have the same wire and braces that the Wyoming house did. Rather than correct problems or prevent them, they use contingency measures or adaptive techniques. While often good short-term solutions, when you don’t correct or prevent problems, you end up with an organization full of ineffective and expensive processes and structures such as:

  • Reporting relationships developed for personality reasons that make no sense.
  • Compensation plans that reward the wrong behavior—often in conflict with the company’s vision or strategy.
  • Technology solutions (often developed in-house) that punish the users and only make sense to the developer (now guaranteed employment so that he can “fix” issues).
  • Physical space that is inefficient but rented from a brother-in-law. (Put the new guy in the closet…)
  • Human resource practices that made sense in a start-up world but not when more “adult-like” behavior is required.

You can usually uncover these when a new person is hired or an outside resource looks at the organization and asks, “Why?” The response usually starts with something like, “You need to understand our history…” Sometimes you just wake up and think, “How did we get this way?”

Sometimes you need to do a spring cleaning on the structures systems and processes you are employing to catch up with reality. Baling wire and braces are not intended to be permanent construction materials!

Edit Module
Todd Ordal

Todd Ordal is president of Applied Strategy®. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Todd is the author of Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want To Be (Morgan James Publishing, 2016). Connect with Todd on LinkedIn, Twitter, call 303-527-0417 or email todd@toddordal.com.

Get more content like this: Subscribe to the magazine | Sign up for our Free e-newsletter

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Articles

The Ritz-Carlton, Denver Names Tabish Siddiquie as General Manager

The Ritz-Carlton, Denver announced the appointment of Tabish Siddiquie as general manager

Executive Wheels: A Toyota That Tastes a Lot Like Meatloaf Tuesdays

This 2018 model - the 8th generation of the venerable model that Toyota debuted in 1982 - has been redesigned and is overall bolder, with a more aggressive grille and lines, somewhat sleeker and rounded.

Financing Your Spring Remodeling Project

Whether it’s a landscaping, gardening or home remodel you are dreaming of, there are some wise steps to follow before undertaking such a costly project.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags