Things don’t always go as planned, not for mice nor for men (or women).  Tis the “best-laid plans” of which I speak.  Well actually maybe it’s not exactly the best-laid plans that go awry, but rather those just a bit less than “best-laid”.  What I have on my mind today is those pesky, unforgiving, and somewhat ubiquitous plans gone awry.  They come in two varieties, the good and the bad.  What the heck, just to wax theatrical, let’s add “the ugly.

But first, let’s clarify.  There is a difference between the term “unplanned consequences” and “deleterious results”.  Unplanned consequences are sometimes good (think 3M post-it notes and WD40) and sometimes bad, while deleterious results are always bad and often ugly. So, for our purposes in the community management industry, let’s look at deleterious results, as that seems the more typical outcome for us, don’t you think?

Only the Best of the Great Ideas

Lesson number one is that this business is not a place where you want to take a chance at being a hero if it also creates a chance that you will be the goat.  This is to say that we are better off being the offensive lineman, the guy you hardly ever notice, than the field goal kicker, the guy you notice a lot….one way or another.  In this industry, whether a paid professional or a volunteer board member, you will never receive the rewards of your heroism with the same vigor that you are dealt the wrath of your “goatism”.

So, we must be discerning in our work. Apple CEO, Tim Cook believes that a key to their success is that they throw out all of the bad ideas, and all of the good ideas and most of the great ideas, in favor of just a few of the great ideas.  Why?  To engender a focus on the few.  To my point here, focusing on too many “good” ideas can have bad results for two reasons.  First, because there are more of them. If you drink coffee every day, you will have more coffee stained clothes in the hamper than if you hardly ever drink it, I know that for sure, as does my wife.  Secondly, if you have a lot of initiatives on the table, you will not be able to focus on the minute details of each, and that focus is what is important in avoiding deleterious results.

The Worst Great Ideas Ever

In recent years, Wells Fargo had a great idea.  So did Coca-Cola, and Samsung.

Wells Fargo initiated sales contests among their employees with such great rewards for success and such grave punishments for failures that it begot a company of abject cheaters.  This was to the detriment of their clients who were unwittingly “sold” peripheral products.  This because many of the sellers found it easier to simply sign them up than to sell them on the virtues of some of the six ancillary products offered by the bank.  They just put through the paperwork without the client ever being the wiser.    The bank eventually endured a $185 million dollar fine and many executives lost their jobs, surely an unplanned consequence of their big sales contest.

Coca-Cola, after nearly a century of holding the throne as king of the colas, suddenly was in a panic.  Pepsi had set forth the highly publicized “Pepsi Challenge” in which they proved to the world that people liked Pepsi better than Coke.  So Coca-Cola quickly introduced “new Coke”, which got old real fast.  They quickly abandoned that unpopular product in favor of their old coke product but ultimately lost even more ground to Pepsi in the process.

Samsung, feeling the pressure of Apple, hurried their latest product to market before it had adequate testing.  The product ended up with some unplanned bonus features like it could blow up like a bomb.  This was an unplanned consequence, indeed it was a deleterious result.

It Happen in HOAs Too

I know what you are thinking, that those are all big business examples and that stuff doesn’t happen in HOA’s.  Did you really think that? EVERYTHING happens in HOA’s. So, when working on any initiative or even a simple task, always keep one eye on the goal at hand, but keep another eye, or perhaps a bunch of them (assuming you are a board or a committee), scanning the treacherous periphery.  A solution for one of your homeowners may become the bane of another’s life, and then it often becomes a bane of the board’s life too.

Indeed, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, particularly in the world of HOA’s.  Bearing that fact in mind is in itself the first step toward avoiding deleterious results in your neighborhood.

Jim Comin

Jim Comin

PCAM, President at The Management Trust
Mr. Comin has been a professional in the community association management business for about thirty years.During this time he led two large management companies in the Seattle area, as their president.Later, with The Management Trust, Jim has served as president of two divisions, Washington and Palm Desert, as well as serving a stint as in product development at the corporate level.

Mr. Comin has been a leader in the association management industry as well as an educator, speaker, writer and committee member for one of the industry’s trade associations, Community Associations Institute (CAI).He has also volunteered on boards of directors for two homeowner associations, a 3,200 unit master homeowner association in the Seattle suburbs as well a resort condominium association with about 500 units in central Washington.

Jim graduated from Eastern Washington University, summa cum laude, and has held his PCAM® designation since 1996, as the 792nd person in the country to reach that designation.
Jim Comin

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