Don’t fix it if it’s broken

Don't fix it if it's broken, eliminate it
Don’t fix it if it’s broken, eliminate it

We all remember the well-known aphorism by Robert Atkins “Don’t fix what’s not broken.” The meaning is clear – do not change something that works well. Let’s take it to the next level as innovators and problem-solvers: “Don’t fix what’s broken.” Indeed, do we really need to fix something that is not working well?

Why should not we fix what’s broken?

Fixing something is the most expensive and the least productive process. The only goal of fixing the broken part is to get it back to where it was before, to return it to the previous state. Fixing is an expensive feast. It is a waste of your time and resources, and of course, money. The process of fixing is rarely successful; the problem usually reoccurs over and over again. But the main disadvantage of fixing is that this process never creates real value. If we analyze this, it becomes clear that the function of fixing is purely harmful. It prevents us from moving forward, pushes us further from development and innovation.

Don’t fix it if it’s broken. Eliminate it.

Instead of wasting your resources to fix something, concentrate your efforts on the elimination of the broken component and delegate its functions to another component that works well. By doing it you will move your system closer to ideality.
Remember: an ideal system is a system that does not exist, but the required function is provided. (more on that in Victor Fey, Eugene Rivin in TRIZ Journal.)

Each time we add something to a system, we move further away from an ideal system. By eliminating parts from the system we move forward, develop the system, and innovate.

Define, Delegate, Elliminate

Based on this concept, the innovation strategy can be seen as follows (DDE Process – Define, Delegate, Eliminate):

  • Analyze the system to reveal the most problematic (broken) components
  • Define the main function of the broken component
  • Delegate the function of the broken component to another component in the system
  • Eliminate the broken component from the system
DDE Process - Define, Delegate, Eliminate

In order for us to keep the system healthy and compatible, we have to continuously define and eliminate broken components. This is a typical problem-solving process that we should perform with help problem-solving tools and approaches.

Quick Summary

If we continuously define and eliminate the broken parts, we support continuous innovation. Kaizen and Lean suggests that we don’t need huge and complex changes to innovate, we just have to do it all the time.

Eliminating broken components will result both in cost reduction and yield improvement of any process. As a result, it will naturally improve your organization’s KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).

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PRIZ Innovator Creative Thinking tools
PRIZ Innovator Creative Thinking tools

Check out PRIZ Innovator (login) and start simplifying your process – innovate, Kaizen and Lean.

Ph.D. in Chemistry. Expert in processes design, improvement and problem-solving. TRIZ (Inventive problem solving) specialist (Level 3).

1 Comment

  • Igor Polkovnikov
    March 29, 2021

    A very good point!
    I my engineering practice, I very often made a better thing instead of fixing what does not work. Very often I eliminated unneeded or wrong parts (whatever it was, software or hardware) and made it even better than it was before. That is a strong way to think.
    I’d like to mention, that sometimes the design and implementation is messy, chaotic. Putting things in order is another way to remove unnecessary parts which is “chaos” is famous for.

    Reply

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