As a child I remember my grandmother often reciting “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!” ……. Whilst I agree with this to a certain extent sometimes things don’t need to be broken in order for us to improve (fix) them. I believe that we sporadically have to check in with what’s working too and not just what’s broken when we carry out our reviews.
Complacency can lead to inefficiency if left unchecked.
Sometimes a review merely confirms that the process we have in place is still working optimally and efficiently for us; BUT it still needs to be reviewed periodically as both we as people and the world around us are in a constant change of flux. Each and every day new and improved technologies and methodologies are developed and sometimes old forgotten methods and ways of doing things are rediscovered and brought back to our attention.
We all get stuck in a rut especially in farming where family comes into play and “we do that because that’s the way it has always been done” or “we do that because great grandfather did that in 1895 and he swore by it, and by geez he was a great farmer”. Other times we venture to try something new and invest our heart and soul –generally along with countless cash- into it only to release at some point that “it just ain’t working”. However we tend to think “I’ve spent this much time/$$$/resources on this project/procedure/idea so I have to keep investing more and more”. We reason with ourselves; we make excuses; we tell ourselves stories; we fabricate unrealistic potential outcomes; we ignore the facts and ACTUAL investment to date – more times than not, continuing to threw good money/time/resources after bad. Sound familiar? Well read on.
We like to think that we make rational decisions based on expected future value of projects and hard facts……….. BUT the truth is, that once we embark on any project, our decisions become affected by our emotions and the more we invest the harder it becomes to abandon the project as our emotions hijack the cockpit and take over the course so to speak. We have all been on both the receiving and giving end of such an emotionally defended position – right? But at the time -when we are emotionally charged- cold hard facts just don’t seem to get through to us……….. and the more emotionally invested we become the harder it becomes to make rational decisions!
So how do we break this cycle ?
There are a couple of things that we can do. Firstly, acknowledging that being aware of this fallacy in the first place means we are half way there.
After all we can’t change or take steps to modify what we aren’t aware of.
So now, that we know that:
- awareness is both a major step in itself and a catalyst for change
- once emotionally involved in a project , rational decision making flies out the window
we can introduce trigger points for any project before we commence the project.
Prior to project commencement, so just after the planning and before the implementation stage, there is generally no or limited emotional involvement and as a result, we can fully access our rational decision making skills. As this point in time we can write down our TRIGGER POINTS a.k.a. ‘Pull the Plug Points’ of what factors would cause us to abandon the project. These can be time (man hours), cost ($$$), environmental factors, lifestyle factors, critical outcomes not being achieved etc. However once they are in black and white it is then easier to adhere to them if and when they should be triggered.
In the event of having to abandon a project, we should see the plus side, i.e. we are once again free to set a new course and create a new fulfilling project. Remember if a project isn’t making you feel good, then its generally time to pull the plug and do something that makes you feel good. After all life and farming are about doing what makes you smile everyday.
I remember in our early days of farming being asked “why black angus?” and I answered because “when I open my back door every day and step out, they make me smile and I want do something that makes me smile each and every day” …… it just so happens that they are now the market leader in the Australian cattle industry which does help me smile that little bit more – the icing on the cake!
- What makes you smile?
- What project did you pursue even although you knew it would fail?
- If you pulled the plug? When – how far in? and why?
- If you didn’t pull the plug, then why not?
- What project surprised you?
- How do you measure the success of a project?
On a closing note, there are some projects (like Concorde – the Sunk Cost Fallacy- is often known as the Concorde Fallacy) however that are just fun regardless of the monetary cost. So, hey if you have the resources and the project makes you feel good; even if the outcome is not the desired financial outcome then stick with it. After all you can’t buy happiness.
We look forward to hearing your stories of the Sunk Cost Fallacy. Why you abandoned ship or held on for dear life even although you knew that you were drowning and the project was never going to work?
Sharing our stories helps us grow.