So yes. This is an actual picture from the dashboard of my car. The "MAINT REQ'D" light has been on for a week or two. The check engine icon just showed up about a week ago. But in my defense, I've only driven it about 20 times since the lights come on. It hasn't been a year or anything.
And I will bring it in. Soon, I promise. It's just that I don't want to. Maybe it's a fan belt and $50 later I drive out and it's all cool. But maybe not...
That's the thing. I'm simply playing roulette with risk. I can keep driving it only to break down on the side of the road. Or I could bring it in and find out the reality of the situation. But if we're being honest, that's no choice at all is it? Of course I can't keep driving it. Of course I have to get it checked out.
You and your organization have the same risks you're weighing. You know that too.
Individually, our check engine light can come on with exhaustion, cynicism, anger, boredom, negativity, and a host of other warning signs. And the outcomes of digging deep on these signals could be "fan belts" - perhaps you just need a vacation or a massage.
But it could be more. It might be a career shift or leaving your job. It could be moving to a new place. It could be big.
Organizationally, the same could hold true. We use our "School Workplace Satisfaction Survey" as a diagnostic tool that measures what's going on in a school and whether or not there are some "check engine" lights to be addressed. Sometimes the data shows things are generally good and we just need new wiper blades and an oil change.
But other times we might find we need new tires and the whole transmission is suspect. The natural thing in those moments is to just keep driving the car because the necessary repairs can be daunting. I literally get that notion right now!
But what does "breaking down on the side of the road" mean when it's you or your organization? How much further damage are you doing if you keep driving? What happens if you drive it beyond repair? Pragmatically, that's no option at all. We know that.
So if this post is about YOU, please heed your warning lights, as scary as that prospect might be. If this post is about your organization, the same holds true. Get the diagnosis. Be ready for what the results might be. And invest in whatever repairs are needed to keep the car on the road. Doing otherwise is dangerous, illogical, and unethical.
As for me, I'm calling the mechanic now.