In business, we often are tempted to make aggressive corrections when we discover an issue that is affecting output or productivity. A recent experience reminded me that it is better to undercorrect than to overcorrect. I learned how you can totally lose clarity and focus when you overcorrect.
It Was All So Clear …
A few weeks ago, I visited my optometrist for an eye exam and learned my eyes were ready for an upgrade in strength from my current eyeglass prescription. When the new “spectacles” arrived, I was anxious to get them. As soon as I put them on, I could tell a big difference in the clarity of words and small print. But I was surprised to find that driving was a different story. Street signs that had been clear with my old glasses were now blurry.
The initial feedback was to give my eyes a few days to adjust, but after one week, the experts advised me to return to their office for further investigating. A second round of exams, including stepping outside and literally reading street signs, produced the exact same results as the first exam as far as my eyesight was concerned. I needed to increase my distance power by two steps from my previous prescription.
However, a more thorough exam of my new progressive lenses revealed that the (distance) power of the lenses was actually 0.25 stronger than the optometrist’s prescription stated. An overpower of 0.25 doesn’t sound like much, but it turns out our eyes have the ability to sharpen an image into view when it is underfocused, but when it is overfocused, our eyes can’t correct it. My eyes would actually have to get worse before the overpowered lenses would again produce a clear view of distant objects. The overpowered lenses weren’t helping the clarity of my vision. They were hindering it.
Overcorrecting in Business
At Aspire, we are strong proponents of continuous improvement, to always be sharpening the saw, getting a little better every day. Getting clarity on what you want to achieve, making the necessary adjustments and creating a road map to get there is part of our process. Improvement is important, but there is a risk: If you try to do too much too fast, you may do more harm than good.
It can happen as easily as overcutting an eyeglass lens by 0.25. For example, a company makes a small adjustment in one area of its business, and it nets a positive result. But instead of being patient and making sure everything else is still clearly in focus, they think if 2X was good, then 3X will make it even better! They do it without making sure the long-term objectives of the business are still being met.
Additionally, the results of an over-correction in one area can trigger a false positive to make adjustments in other areas of the business that are totally unrelated to the first changes that were made.
The intentions are good. They are striving to make improvements in their company, but too much can actually be more damaging than too little. An overcorrection can be costly, and sometimes you can’t undo it. Have you ever put too much salt into a recipe? It is hard to undo.
The best thing to do to avoid overcorrecting is to simply think in terms of taking baby steps. Don’t try to do it all at once. Author Jim Collins uses the analogy of shooting bullets before you shoot a cannonball as the best way to find the range. When you make adjustments, step back and take a look at your entire company. How did that change, correction or improvement impact the other areas of your business? Is everything still in focus? Are your short-term results still aligning with your long term goals? Your long-term vision?
There are always going to be situations where drastic measures and aggressive corrective actions are required. But it should the exception and not the norm. If it is the norm for your business, you’re probably putting it at risk of overcorrecting. Keep improving, but the next time you make an adjustment, remember to step back and make sure everything else is still in focus.