Garbage in, garbage out is a phrase I learned in one of my first-year Computer Science classes, back in my university days. It was used to express the important concept that incorrect or poor quality input will always produce faulty output. I learned this phrase in the context of computers, but it’s a phrase that is just as easily applicable to the world of work. Except, in recent times, I think we might have forgotten it.
Whether it’s hiring employees, sourcing out raw materials, or investing in training, I see repeated examples of short-sighted managers focusing only on solving the immediate problem. Staff shortage? Let’s hire the first warm body that seems to have the required modicum of skills. Need to cut costs? Let’s find the cheapest material inputs. New software or processes? Let’s give our people the bare minimum of training and get them back to doing “real work” as soon as possible.
The problem with “Garbage in, garbage out”
The problem of course with all these approaches is what I said earlier – garbage in, garbage out. When you are desperate enough to hire the first applicant simply because he meets the required minimums, you’ll never get off the turnover treadmill. When your entire focus is on trying to find cheaper average inputs, your final product will always be of poor quality. When you shortchange your people on the training they need, you’ll find yourself having to waste time and money doing it again later. Continue reading