Are you OK with fudging?

Estimated reading time: 2 mins

No this ain’t some odd sexual reference. (If you thought it was, what does that say about you? And what does it say about me for thinking you might?)

Fudging in this context is manipulation which goes against standard, e.g. changing a value of something ‘illegitimately’ to see if you get the result you’re looking for. My reason for discussing this is that ‘being OK’ with that says a lot about you and your work preferences.

Some people like to work with structure and repeatable methods that worked yesterday, today and tomorrow, figuratively speaking. Working to a standard and established process is a linchpin to that. Fudging something, therefore, isn’t. The very thought of changing something established to get a result is sacrilege.

But some people like to work in an unstructured fashion and look to achieve a result without necessarily being able to repeat it. Playing around with a parameter or value to see if you get the desired result is part of the engineering process, albeit by trial and error.

This is really brain-stuff; there is a psychological response to these things. If you suddenly feel like your integrity is diminished by fudging, then you’re more process-oriented and risk-averse. You’re also likely to be a great task/process manager but probably won’t become c-level (i.e. CEO, CIO, CTO, CFO). If you’re more concerned with getting the outcome you want and to hell with repeatability, then you’re more results-oriented. If so you’ll be a good c-level leader but may have to work hard to get up the ladder in big organizations.

(By the way I am OK with any challenges to my linking of process-orientation to risk-aversion!)

If you can answer this question about yourself, maybe you can answer how you feel about it? When I have asked this of some people I’ve worked with, they have been surprised by their own response and some of them have thought ‘hell man I want to be result-oriented!’ And you know what this has been a great start to a personal development plan. Knowing your ‘default’ is a powerful way of knowing what internal challenges you have to developing yourself to get to where you want to be. In fact most people want balance – a bit of both results-orientation and process-orientation. Gaining this balance can be developed as a skill, just like typing or doing sudoko. Perhaps in future situations it will be worth doing the opposite of what you’d normally do, i.e. fudge something if you’re process-oriented, or apply standard/process if you’re results-oriented, and see what happens and how you feel about it.

I’m currently discussing the implications of the Product Life-Cycle and the kind of folk who like to work in certain stages of it. This adds some background context to my assertion.

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