Monday, July 16, 2007

Prevention versus Remedy

The Prevention versus Remedy debate has always fascinated me.

Those of us who are in the Prevention ranks can be baffled at the recklessness of the Remedy crowd. How can they sit around and wait to get clobbered by a crisis that anyone with basic vision can see is bearing down on us like a truck on a possum? How can they fail to take simple actions that will save loads of money and time down the road?

The Remedy people, however, have a defense. You Prevention types, they say, are world-class worriers. You would tie us up in drills for everything from earthquakes to hang-nails and, as a result, we'd get little done. The employees would spend part of the day looking over their shoulders, waiting for the End of Days, and the team would become demoralized and unproductive. Your perfectionism is paralyzing!

Those points, I believe, can be easily brushed aside as hyperbole, but the Remedy advocates also raise a more difficult argument when they mutter:

Besides, management favors the Remedy camp.

This is hard to dispute. Point out dangers on the horizon in some outfits and you are relegated to status of wimps, nay-sayers, and what my father's generations used to call Nervous Nellies. Favor "Action now!" and "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" and you'll score big time as a bold decision maker.

You can ascribe this to upper management's bias for action. I believe, however, that another bias is in play. Management likes crises. Dealing with a crisis is exciting, it frees us from monotony, and overcoming crises has made many a career. You seldom get promoted for avoiding a disaster, but all sorts of upward movement can come if you vigorously respond to a mess.

Which leads to some other questions: If crises are attractive and career-boosting, how often are they subconsciously produced? Is what the Prevention camp sees as madness really a method?

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