We have all heard this expression. It even seems to make sense at first. Why spend time and money on something that is not broken? With a little thought, we can see the fallacy of the statement.
The better question to ask is, “Why wait until something breaks to deal with it?” We should not delay until a machine fails and stops production before we maintain it. We maintain our cars before they break down and strand us on the side of the road. It is almost always cheaper and easier to prevent a problem before it happens. Doing this also helps maintain productivity.
The same thing applies to any situation in our workplace (and elsewhere). We are better off to find and fix potential concerns in any process rather than wait for things to break. Whether we are looking at how things are done in an office, the way materials are handled in a factory, or how students perform in a classroom, we should always look for ways to do things better before failure occurs. This is the basis of any continuous improvement process.
How do we know which potential concerns we should work on? At CALMC, we recommend starting by using the experience of the workforce. Involve employees by gathering their ideas about potential concerns. Carefully identify the root causes of potential problems by gathering data that can help us better understand what is really happening. By using tools like Pareto charting, cause and effect diagrams, or control charting, we can identify the parts of the system that need our attention before they fail.
Often, relying on “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” is an excuse to do nothing. Either we do not want to take the time or spend the money, but failing to do so will result in increased costs and more serious problems.
Whether it is in our workplace, our organizations, or our lives, we cannot wait for things to break down before giving them the attention they deserve. This is true whether we are talking about equipment, procedures, relationships, or people. Involving employees and other stakeholders provides the advantage of using their knowledge of the system to find and correct problems before things break.