Article Date: 1/1/2012

Lessons My GPS Taught Me

Lessons My GPS Taught Me

My GPS is a neat little piece of electronics. Or is it a management guru?

From The Executive Director
Jim Thomas

How did we ever get by without the global positioning system (GPS)? Within a few moments, this little box tells me where to go. Better still, it's often correct, a fact I overlook when I arrive at a vacant lot and Audrey, the digitized GPS voice, announces that I've reached my lunch destination.

As someone who relies on travel directions regularly, my GPS has become indispensable. Beyond getting me from point A to point B, the GPS has also reinforced the management lessons that follow.

Know your destination.

When I recently keyed in “9800 Woodland Ave.,” the GPS directed me to 9800 East Woodland Ave., which was five miles off the mark. Unfortunately, the device can't read minds; it relies on accurate input.

Similarly, unless you understand your goals and can clearly communicate them to others, your team can easily reach a destination different from the one you had intended.

Have a back-up plan.

I used to laugh at the motorists who used GPS systems and still printed paper directions … until the trip where my battery charger broke. The paper back up also helps when the GPS isn't updated with the most recent maps.

The morale: If information is important enough to store and use, it's important enough to back up.

Recalculations happen.

No one likes to hear the GPS blurt out “recalculating.” Loosely translated, it means, “You can't follow directions, and now I have to fix your mistake.” Yet mistakes are unavoidable. When they do occur, do we get frustrated and distracted, or do we “recalculate” — that is, continue to focus on our goals?

Some recalculations are better left unsaid.

Several new GPS models never utter the word “recalculate.” Instead, the device simply provides revised directions. The driver may not even be aware of making an error. He/she simply continues uninterrupted toward the destination. It begs the question: Does acknowledging the error provide any value or move the driver any closer to a destination?

Certainly, it's beneficial to provide constructive criticism and take steps to prevent mistakes from reoccurring. However, with minor miscues, especially those made by well-intentioned, dedicated people, would it be better just to redirect the employee without emphasizing the error? After all, my GPS never points out my mistakes, and I never take a trip without it. OM

Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: January 2012, page(s): 6