Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

When consequences become inconsequential – the impact of not following through

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 1, 2015

I am a member of a local gym that I go to several times a week to swim and do yoga. And I begin this posting with an incident that I saw unfold there. The locker rooms at this gym offer full height and half height lockers that members can use on a per day basis for storing their cloths while working out. Then at the end of each day, these lockers are checked and presumably at least, any locks still on them are cut off as these lockers are not provided for overnight storage. This gym does, however, offer smaller lockers that members can and do rent on an ongoing basis with fees due monthly. They are used to store folded gym cloths, toiletries and the like and as stated, these are held for exclusive use by individual paying members. And this is where this case study narrative begins. Someone in the membership office found out that a number of monthly rental lockers that were supposed to be empty and available, were actually in use and with locks on them. My guess is that they only learned this when they rented out one or more of these “vacant” rental lockers to members, to see them come back to the office to complain that they had just paid for a locker that someone else was already using. I do not know the count for this in the woman’s locker room but when this came up I spotted 44 such absconded lockers in the men’s locker room. Management at this gym had notices taped to all of these lockers notifying the people using them that they had until March 8 to remove their locks and empty them out – or rent them and pay for their use. This gave everyone involved just over three weeks warning.

And the days passed and weeks passed and March 8 and April 8 and May 8 passed and those notices stayed in place, and most but not all of those locks were removed. And something curious happened. I would walk around to see if any changes were taking place and the numbers of those rental lockers with locks remaining on them dropped to 3 in the men’s locker room. And nothing happened and nothing happened and nothing happened – none of them were cut off and nothing else was done as consequence for failure to vacate rental lockers not being paid for. And as the weeks passed and then a month and more, post-deadline, more locks began going up on those now empty but still unrented lockers, all of that initial set of them still showing their vacate notices. I would assume that if they were being rented now, those vacate notices would have come down from them. My point here is that by all appearance, a failure to follow through on the implied warning of action meant that the gym’s management had announced there would be no consequences.

Then finally at the end of May all of the warning notices came down and so did those locks, and now they were finally made available for member rental, and they were all grabbed up for this very quickly.

I wrote the title of this posting in terms of “consequences become inconsequential” but that is not entirely true here. The consequences warned of to the people who were using those rental lockers rent-free were entirely inconsequential for them, and for months on end – and until they appeared inconsequential for anyone wanting a “free” rental locker. But if management had in fact held off on renting any of these 44 lockers until the status of all of them were corrected, then this had impact and consequence for anyone simply waiting to rent.

In the greater scheme of things, this working(?) example is inconsequential and probably even for the gym members who had to wait until all of these lockers were added back into the pool of available rental options before any of them could be rented again. If this were a unique development, without any parallels elsewhere, I would not in all probability be writing about it here. But consequences without follow-through and consequences that are allowed to degrade into inconsequentiality for lack of follow-through are all too commonplace. And they often occur in “compensating” combination with overly hasty subsequent responses and “corrective” measures elsewhere, that are taken to try to reestablish credibility and that can create their own problems too.

This posting is about consequences and it is about follow-through, but more than that it is about consistency and reliability, that all involved know that decisions arrived at and signed off upon will be carried through upon, and according to a reasonable, stated timetable. And this posting is at least as much about the ripple effect consequences that can arise, creating new problems in turn, when planned and announced action and follow-through are not carried out and followed through upon … until perhaps way, way later and only after adverse consequences have started to build up.

I offer this brief posting as a thought piece for both developing policy and for enacting and realizing it in actual ongoing practice. You can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and also at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory.

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