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Addicted to Kludge

This trip to Canada while long has been good. It was cool to see some areas where we are doing a really good job, and it was useful to see some things where we are just getting by. I had the privilege yesterday of giving a report in Calgary of what’s being done and where we are headed.

One of the things that I as a trainer have to react to in service to my corporate neighbor is the kludge — a computer software term, but I’ll redefine it to be that temporary fix that gets the job out the door but often has adverse long-term implications. We think we get away with the kludge because the result of our behavior isn’t communicated back to us in a timely fashion. Those affected by the kludge decide it’s not worth the effort to communicate what went wrong. That’s a mindset that I get to break.

The coolest thing about teaching workflow software (how uncool a phrase!) is that I can explain the effects of an adverse behavior down the line. Example: A proposal with incomplete information may get done more quickly, save on paper, and look pretty to the customer, but it doesn’t communicate what needs to be done on the actual job. Materials and equipment may be insufficient for the job. Time is wasted when we get to location, realize the problem, and deliver more materials and equipment to location to finish the job. I get to explain that the rules in places are really there not to be annoying or make one’s job miserable but to assist in overall job performance.

It’s easy for a drone to just work in a cell. It’s easy for a manager to tell someone to just “do their job.” It’s not the smartest. When one is merely meeting a set of arbitrary rules in the course of his or her job, he or she is only focused on making one’s job easier, not better. Progress and fulfillment are measured in terms of rank rather than real improvement. The temporary kludge to meet a requirement becomes standard operating procedure.

I don’t have a single solution for breaking the kludge addiction. Most of the time, showing how improved behavior helps people down the line do their job more efficiently and thus more profitably will do the trick. Sometimes, positive or negative feedback from the affected people works. Once in a while, it’s putting the person in someone else’s shoes. As a last resort, people can just be told what to do, but insulting one’s intelligence is desirable neither for supervisor or employee.

Might as well face it, you’re addicted to kludge. Be proactive. Find out how your job (or your non-paying duty or role) affects those around you, and work to better that. Find that shortcut that other people are compensating for and take care of it. You’ll be making a difference in a way that everyone can measure, and the positive effect may even reward you.

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  1. What I learned during my short time as a programmer, and during Mr. BTEG’s career, is that there’s never time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over.

    1. Dan says:


      That works until a higher-up actually demands that the software be used, and the programmer is still doing it over. :)

  2. BTW, I thought kludge was going to be some sort of Canadian delicacy that you were going to miss. :)

    1. Dan says:

      No, that would be the butcher-cut steak with chimichurri sauce and crispy-fried potato garnish from Char-Cut. Perfect amount of fat, spice, and crunch. I will have to make this at home. :)