Garage Doors and Decision-Making

I am not sure if others have experienced a non-cooperative garage door before or not.  A few months ago, the garage door stopped closing correctly and proved to be one of those daily challenges that drive you slowly crazy.  After using the remote to close the door, the door would descend until it was two or three feet from the floor and go back up again.  It was similar to the response to when something gets in the way of the door and it recoils to prevent injury.  I checked the door, chain of the opener mechanism, wheels on the door, and eye that prevents the door from closing on someone or the car.  Nothing seemed to be obvious to me and only led me to conclude that something so simply held more mysteries than I ever thought.

As the problem became more chronic and requiring multiple attempts to close the door when I was late for work, I realized that I needed to call someone to help me end the door dilemma.  Not surprising, there were multiple opinions to why the door was misbehaving:

  • One garage door specialist concluded that the issue was severe and a new door and all the associated components were needed to fully address the problem.  The cost was sizable (over $3,000). Clearly, it seemed a bit of overkill.
  • The next professional felt that wheels needed to be replaced to prevent vibration when the door descended.  New and more expensive wheels would make the door move more smoothly ($200 to $300).  For some reason this sounded like he was unsure what to do and was going to try something and see if it worked.
  • The final home improvement expert looked at the door, examined the garage overall, and asked us questions about how often we traveled in and out of the garage. His recommendation was to replace the key supports and the chain in the door opener mechanism ($550).  Although he was very thorough, he really did not seem to know what we should do and he identified the chain as a common issue.

After deciding that the diversity of solutions more than likely indicated that a simple solution would be best, the forth professional was asked how it could be fixed in a more simple fashion.  He took two minutes and solved the issue.  He climbed a ladder, turned a small screw on the back of the opener mechanism to reduce the tension on the opener, and smiled broadly before announcing it fixed.

There are several lessons that come to mind from this experience that might be beneficial to us as decision makers in our organizations:

  • Temptation of Overkill
  • Simple Solutions Should Not be Overlooked
  • Over Studying Does Not Guarantee Success

Temptation of Overkill

How often have you been tempted to decide to “clear the decks” and start over when you are seeking to improve a work situation?  Clearly, the siren call of building your own program, process, or team has lured more than one decision-maker that was facing multiple and complex challenges.  Some of the most common reasons for desiring this option include:

  • Inability to determine the real nature of the problems due to a lack of tools to diagnosis the casual factors;
  • Inability to develop tools that actually result in change once issues are identified; and
  • Assumption that building something new is easier than repairing something existing.

Except in extreme cases, there is a significant amount of waste in eliminating all current resources and starting over.

Simple Solutions Should Not be Overlooked

Another common temptation is to assume that simple solutions should be ruled out given that simple solutions lack the necessary complexity to actually meet the organization’s needs.  The phrase that I hear the most is how a leader or team “falls in love” with their solution.  The intricacies and detail become part of the allure.  Simple solutions are many times the best.  The principle of Occam’s Razor states that simpler explanations are, other things being equal, generally better than more complex ones. In other words, simpler theories or explanations are better until we can exchange simplicity for increased explanatory power.

Over Studying Does Not Guarantee Success

Some decision-makers and organizations overthink even the smallest decision.  Most of us tend to over complicate things when we over think them.  Almost any decision can be broken into an ever increasing number of sub-components, risks, and contingencies.  Moreover, as things become more complicated, action is less likely to occur.  There is even some consensus that overthinking leads to less than ideal solutions as we attempt to “cover all of the bases.”

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