First published in August 2018.
We are used to look at the cost of doing things. And rightly so. We ask those questions as a routine. Our financial spreadsheets are there waiting for ‘cost of doing’. Under a big banner of costs you’ll find unlikely fellow travelers such as the cost of the maintenance of photocopy machines just a few lines above or below the cost of having people around, or the cost of training. Accounting logic is often true life nonsense, but, hey, this is how it works.
Nowhere we are asked for the cost of not doing something. The cost of not pushing for a culture shift. The cost of not training enough. The cost of not engaging an expert.
Think how many times we have found ourselves in a situation in which the cost of not doing something is thousand times the cost of doing it.
Questions such as ‘can we afford not to do that?’ or ‘what is the true risk of not embarking upon that change or transformation?’ are less common but equally important, if not sometimes the most important ones.
It would be very simple for leaders to systematically ask for the cost of doing X, always accompanied with the cost of not doing X. This mirror accounting should be the norm even if only 50% of it goes to the spreadsheet.
And, BTW, the cost of asking the question is zero, and the cost of not asking is (pick a number).