When it hasn't turned out okay…

A small nuance to the below: Being open to the unexpected and different is good. When one is committed to a specific outcome, however… well, that’s not good.

Just because a specific situation resolves itself properly does not mean that’s the right – or best – way to go about it. Yet the attitude of “It all worked out okay” seems to be pervasive in our culture. The following fictional example is a lot like many real conversations I’ve had:

“That’s not what the customer’s order says.”

I was looking at the order slip, which had been printed by my own company. On the admittedly confusing sheet, which had four similar (but different) products close together, only one option was checked.

“I’m sure they wanted those extra options,” the floor supervisor said. “That’s what most people mean when they check that product.”

“But that’s not what it says here. Maybe it is what they want, but maybe it’s not. Couldn’t we change the order sheet to make it less confusing?”

Grudgingly, the floor supervisor called the customer. “Well, they wanted the standard options. See? It all worked out okay.”

“But shouldn’t we get the form changed?”

“Why? It worked out okay. We gave them what they wanted. You’re acting like you’re the police today!”

I’m not talking about a Taoist attitude towards changing plans here; this is about people knowing what their role is, failing to do it, and then trying to rationalize the failure away.

It is a versatile excuse as well; it can be used to justify nearly any behavior, no matter how ill-conceived or potentially damaging.

“Mommy, I ran across the street today without looking and everything turned out okay!”

The worst damage is how this tactic obscures and removes the need for change. “Everything turned out okay” makes the extraordinary efforts of those who did extra disappear. It makes the problems disappear. There is no need, then, to change the system.

Not until it catastrophically fails.

Look around at our economy, our foreign policy, our environment. How many of the policies leading to those problems were originally justified by “everything’s turned out okay.”

Because someday, some time, it won’t.

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