Most business fads do have at least some inherent value — that's why so many organizations adopt them. But as we saw last time, their inherent value can degrade as the fad itself gathers adopters. In this part of our exploration, we turn our attention to the hidden costs associated with adopting ideas or methods that have acquired — or that eventually do acquire — fad status.
- Costs can be internal
- When estimating the costs of adopting an idea or method, we tend to focus on cash outlays, but many costs of adoption can be internal. Costs can appear as lost production, lost sales, compromised quality, confusion, political strife, degraded morale, employee cynicism, and much more, most of it difficult to measure. Examples of the sources of these losses include time spent training and learning, employees recognizing the fad potential of the new method, and disruption of interpersonal relationships.
- Since adopting a new idea or method can be expensive in both measurable and nonmeasurable costs, be very certain that it isn't a fad. Fads usually just aren't worth adopting.
- Costs can lag adoption
- Many of the costs of adopting fads, espSome fads are stickyecially the nonmeasurable costs, appear not in advance of or during the adoption effort, but much later. For instance, companies that downsized aggressively in the 1990s lost access to many of their experienced employees and much of their organizational memory, from both the downsizing and the voluntary turnover it inevitably stimulates.
- Adopting a fad can leave a lasting legacy of recurring cost that can hobble the organization for years.
- Investments in fads can be volatile
- The investments we make when adopting fads are different in character from investments we make when buying equipment, or creating new products, or outfitting new space. Some investments in fads are volatile because we have little ability to protect them.
- Fads that involve personal training are more likely than most to carry with them volatile costs. For instance, when we purchase a computer, we have the ability to keep it in our possession. But when we train an employee to use the Myers-Briggs model, and spend real money to determine that employee's Myers-Briggs type, that investment evaporates when the employee leaves the company.
- Some fads are sticky
- One of the defining features of fads is that they eventually pass on. After adopting a fad, we adopt something else, undoing the work we did when we adopted it. But some fads, once adopted, are very difficult to leave behind. They stick.
- Methods and ideas that require changes to policies and procedures are often stickiest, because changing policies and procedures is difficult by design. Especially sticky are fads involving human resources procedures. When adopting them we rarely consider the costs of letting go.
Next time we'll explore why business fads form. Next in this seriesFirst in this series Top Next Issue
Is your organization embroiled in Change? Are you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt? Read 101 Tips for Managing Change to learn how to survive, how to plan and how to execute change efforts to inspire real, passionate support. Order Now!
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenHoWzUJVeioCfozEIner@ChacbnsTPttsdDaRAswloCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Give Me the Bad News First
- I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that if you wait long enough, there will be some bad
news. The good news is that the good news helps us deal with the bad news. And it helps a lot more if
we get the bad news first.
- Workplace Myths: Motivating People
- Up and down the org chart, you can find bits of business wisdom about motivating people. We generally
believe these theories without question. How many of them are true? How many are myths? What are some
of these myths and why do they persist?
- Our Last Meeting Together
- You can find lots of tips for making meetings more effective — many at my own Web site. Most are
directed toward the chair, or the facilitator if you have one. Here are some suggestions for everybody.
- Why Don't They Believe Me?
- When we want people to believe us, and they don't, it just might be a result of our own actions or demeanor.
How does this happen?
- How to Foresee the Foreseeable: Recognize Haste
- When trouble arises after we commit to a course of action, we sometimes feel that the trouble was foreseeable.
One technique for foreseeing the foreseeable depends on recognizing haste in the decision-making process.
See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming June 7: Toxic Disrupters: Tactics
- Some people tend to disrupt meetings. Their motives vary, but they use techniques drawn from a limited collection. Examples: they violate norms, demand attention, mess with the agenda, and sow distrust. Response begins with recognizing their tactics. Available here and by RSS on June 7.
- And on June 14: Pseudo-Collaborations
- Most workplace collaborations produce results of value. But some collaborations — pseudo-collaborations — are inherently incapable of producing value, due to performance management systems, or lack of authority, or lack of access to information. Available here and by RSS on June 14.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenHoWzUJVeioCfozEIner@ChacbnsTPttsdDaRAswloCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, )
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, )
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, )
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, )
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, )
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, )
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info