Every organization stumbles from time to time, sometimes scraping its knees badly enough that a “band-aid action” is needed to stop the bleeding, or protect the site from infection. Unfortunately, far too often, once the bleeding has stopped, or the threat of infection has passed, leaders think they have “cured” the situation.
News flash . . . band-aids aren’t a cure.
Band-aids are a stop-gap measure to address an immediate situation, but a they do nothing to impact why the organization stumbled in the first place. That is not within the band-aids’ scope of responsibility . . . that’s the job of a leader. But when you’re running fast — as so many organizations are today — and the imminent threat has passed, digging a bit deeper to learn why the organization tripped in the first place often gets placed on a back burner until you have the time to thoroughly analyze the situation. Which of course, you never do.
Band-aids, while serving an immediate purpose, can also lull us into a faulty sense having dealt with the situation. Band-aids are designed for triage, they aren’t a cure.
It’s much easier to see this playing out when we look at other organizations, such as bureaucracies we work with that (from our perspective) have a knee-jerk reaction to a specific situation, create a new set of rules, and then never look back to see how those rules impact other systems already in place, or if they even impact the intended area of change. Hmm . . . Sometimes, our window works better than our mirror. How many band-aids are scattered throughout your organization, remaining in place far beyond their initial short-term purpose?
Please don’t hear me say that you should never use band-aids. Without them, an organization could bleed to death while you’re searching for the host of variables and underlying situations that contributed to a particular situation. I’m simply saying that too often we rely on band-aids to try to address a situation that ultimately will only be cured with surgery.
Not sure where your organizational band-aids might be lurking? Ask your staff. They know. Ask them what decisions you should revisit to see if they are having the intended impact. Ask them to name the three key challenges before them. If any of the items on the list are ones you thought you had already addressed, it was probably with band-aid.
No doubt about it, this stuff is hard. That’s why an organization needs leaders . . . to grapple with what the organization needs both today and in the long term.
You may need a band-aid in the short-term, but your job as a leader is ultimately to move beyond the band-aid and help your organization find the cure.