Why We Need Inefficient Systems

It was about 11pm and another 16 hour day had come to an end. As usual we were exhausted, completely at our wits end and not sure if our efforts would pay off in any improvements. This had been the trend and the next day’s work would start at 4.30am the following morning. No shifts, same people and despite inefficient infrastructure, poor work flow design stretched by rising trade volumes, we managed to run one of the largest business operations shops in the country -and had respected awards to prove it.

To ice the cake, we were understaffed, pressed for time and always distracted by unending power plays, inevitably leading to client complaint after the other. For some of us, this was an unwelcome time to build capacity for handling uncertainty. For others, it was another misguided opportunity to have one more ‘interesting’ conversation about the competence of the boss.

Looking back, it’s almost impossible to see how else a consistent capacity for handling real business uncertainties (the type that sinks businesses) is developed. While I do not advocate poorly designed systems that just make life unbearably difficult for the customer; consider a 60 day sabbatical where promising talent are seconded to the most difficult divisions in the company and assessed for emotional stability, clarity of thought and accuracy in decision making under pressure. That way, a keen sense of business necessary for survival is developed.

Thing is, we can either wait for the inevitable business disasters to occur, or take the fight to the gates.

I suggest the latter.

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