Sometimes it is simply not possible to achieve.
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If you ever happen to see a craftsman at work, regardless of their field of endeavor, they are mindful of Michelangelo's axiom, "Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle." This of course means perfection rarely occurs in quick and dirty situations. Instead, a methodical approach is preferred over trial and error, whereby careful consideration is given to all of the elements of planning, design, testing, and installation, where the development of each component in the product is carefully scrutinized for quality. In other words, perfection requires patience to achieve. We should, therefore, be mindful of the speed versus defect phenomenon, whereby the faster we go the more likely we are to experience defects in workmanship; the slower we go, the less likely.
Regardless of our best intentions, it is still possible to overlook a minuscule detail thereby hindering perfection. Sometimes perfection is simply impossible to achieve, which is when we have to become practical and change tactics.
To illustrate, years ago we were hired by a Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan to look over a new Claims Processing system they were building. The focal point of their problem centered on adjudicating claims whereby they wanted to devise an automated way to analyze a claim and determine the amount of money to be paid out. They had spent considerable time and money analyzing adjudication and were frustrated they couldn't come up with a standard algorithm for computing all claims. We studied the problem and found that 90% of their claims were easy to analyze and calculate adjudication. For example, simple doctor visits, a broken bone, normal childbirths, etc. were easy to analyze and compute. However, unusual medical claims such as complications at childbirth, and accidents from a massive car accident, involved many more variables and, consequently, were difficult to compute based on standard algorithms. After studying the problem carefully, we reached the conclusion that trying to accurately calculate 100% of all claims was an impossibility. It was simply not practical to try to achieve this lofty goal and, as such, was a waste of time pursuing it. Instead, it was our advice they simply automate the 90% claims they could easily perform and segregate the remaining 10% for handling by a human adjuster. To their surprise, this worked remarkably well and saved them considerable money.
Too often in systems and software development people try to do the impossible and often run into a stumbling block when trying to achieve their goal. Do we continue to waste time and money on a problem that cannot be conquered or do we stop, lick our wounds, and move around? The problem is knowing when to stop.
This is ultimately based on the concept of the "80/20 Rule" (aka, ""Pareto’s Principle"). Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who observed in 1897 that 80 percent of the land in England was owned by 20 percent of the population. Pareto’s theory thereby relates to the ratio of input to output; e.g. twenty percent of your effort produces 80 percent of your results. From a time management perspective, it means 20 percent of the people are normally responsible for producing 80 percent of the work.
The concept of 80/20 can also be applied in other situations, as demonstrated by the above Claims Processing System. The point is, instead of continuing to beat your head against a wall, maybe it will be more practical to simply walk around it.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at email@example.com
For Tim’s columns, see: timbryce.com
Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.