Several single-line aphorisms have become part of modern vernacular. The three that have recently confronted me are:
- “What you don‘t know won‘t hurt you;”
- “If it’s not broken, don‘t fix it;” and,
- “Don‘t shoot the messenger.”
There may be some varying degree of truth in each of these statements. However, in a broader context, each holds an intrinsic fallacy that can be used to justify subpar behavior. Before slipping into any of the above, let’s consider the following:
What You Don‘t Know Won‘t Hurt You
Dickens aptly wrote that ignorance spells doom, “unless the writing be erased.”(1) In both personal life and business enterprises a price will be paid for what should have been learned and
wisdom that should have been gained, but was not. For example, parents’ failure to learn the strengths and weaknesses of their child greatly reduces their ability to support, coach and maximize the child’s odds for success and fulfillment. Similarly, a business venture that lacks the capability or does not learn the needs of their customers cannot produce solutions that will yield sustainable results.
John F. Kennedy stated, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” (2) To be a leader by Kennedy’s definition—be it in business, politics or one’s personal life— you must first learn the needs of those you are serving. A business leader must know what his or her customers and employees need in order to be successful, just as a parent must know the needs of the child. They must be ‘physically’ present, even if that means from a remote location, by being tuned in and aligned real time to be aware, assess, evaluate and address developing and changing needs and challenges.
In not knowing, one might miss the opportunity and therefore the power to triumph. Having the mental and emotional capacity to reason and empathize, with the ability and tools to design and implement, is the key to understanding needs and to produce value-add solutions with viable results.
If It’s Not Broken – Don‘t Fix It
This phrase sounds good and, in some instances, might even be correct. For example, if you do not find yourself in a life or death situation, it may be wise to avoid high-risk medical procedures; this is a question of judgment. It is a calculated evaluation of risk versus reward or in other instances, reward versus the investment to realize the reward.
Putting existential biology aside, if one pauses to look at the world through a perfectionist lens, it is quickly evident that everything is broken! The common saying, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” usually becomes a strong cry for mediocrity.
An enterprise that acknowledges the importance and necessity to overcome “what you don’t know won’t hurt you”, receives a constant stream of input from customers regarding which activities require improvement. A true pursuit of excellence demands continual introspection and evaluation of what activities, traits, processes, products and pursuits require improvement, and consequential setting of targets with associated investments (dollars, or time and effort, or both) to enable continued progression.
Don‘t Shoot the Messenger
Is there any intrinsic value in a “messenger”? No, really not. We do not need messengers who wash their hands of a problem. We need proactive problem-solvers. “Hey, I am just the messenger, don’t be angry at me,” is an excuse for one of the basest of human weaknesses. Robert Kennedy refers to this behavior as the danger of futility— “the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills.” (2). However, “don’t shoot the messenger,” is even baser. Why? It attempts to justify futility, and even beyond justifying, it attempts to make it honorable!
A good enterprise gives employees the tools and the voice to make a difference. In such an environment, messengers consume the oxygen that the enterprise otherwise needs for sustenance and growth. Those who simply drop off problems on others desks without at least suggesting potential solutions, have neither the capability nor attitude to be a contributing member. Inactivity is contagious and wastes the most precious commodity that this life offers— time. An individual or an organization that falls prey to futility becomes a simple victim of its surroundings. YES – kill the attitude and behaviors that produce messengers.
Ownership and Accountability
Most, if not all, simple aphorisms fall contrary to the two great enablers of an abundant life: ownership and accountability. A person and/ or an organization with knowledge, skills, and a growth mindset at its core disallows behaviors contrary to full ownership and personal accountability. Such a ‘core’ produces a long-term thesis of value creation.
As a company, we strive to be a valuable partner to our customers, suppliers and shareholders, with a posture to be laser-focused on continual improvement. As individuals, adding value in all its forms should be the thrust of every pursuit.
(1) Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”
(2) John F. Kennedy, Undelivered Speech, Dallas TX, November 1963
(3) Robert Kennedy, “Speech of Affirmation”, Cape Town, South Africa, June 1966
Mr. Russell Ellwanger
TowerJazz CEO & TPSCo Chairman
Mr. Ellwanger has served as Chief Executive Officer since May 2005. He has served as Director since September 2016, and as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Company’s subsidiaries: Tower Semiconductor USA, Inc., Tower US Holdings, Inc., Jazz US Holdings, Inc., Jazz Semiconductor, Inc., TowerJazz Panasonic Semiconductor Co., Ltd. and TowerJazz Texas, Inc.