This blog is inspired by a recent conversation with a client. During a coaching session, we were talking about the challenge she faced when trying to fix a problem in her department by avoiding a workaround or hack. Doing it right might be more difficult and challenging in the short run but would pay significant dividends in the long term – reduced costs, stress, and a proper fix.

The problem with hacks and workarounds is that they usually lead to another hack to work around the workaround. It’s akin to using duct tape to hold things together when under the surface things are falling apart.

I’ve done a bit of digging on why hacks are not a long-term solution and as a leader it is your responsibility to direct energy, time and dollars to do it right the first time and fix them as required.

In the broadest sense, a hack refers to any creative or unconventional solution to a problem, involving the clever use of tools, resources, or systems in a way that they were not originally intended for.

Workarounds are usually temporary fixes or solutions to immediate problems that surface when the ideal solution is not readily available or feasible. While they can provide short-term relief, they can also introduce new complexities and issues for several reasons:

  • Patchwork Solutions: Workarounds typically address symptoms rather than underlying causes. This can lead to a situation where multiple workarounds pile up, creating a tangled web of fixes that are difficult to maintain and understand.
  • Technical Debt: Workarounds often involve shortcuts or compromises that deviate from best practices. Over time, these shortcuts accumulate technical debt, making the system more fragile and harder to maintain.
  • Dependency Chains: Workarounds can introduce dependencies between different parts of a system that were not originally designed to interact. When one part of the system changes, it can inadvertently impact other areas, leading to unexpected failures or behaviors.
  • Increased Complexity: Workarounds add complexity to systems by introducing additional components, configurations, or processes. This complexity can make it harder to diagnose issues, troubleshoot problems, and onboard new team members.
  • Resistance to Change: Once a workaround is in place and becomes part of the workflow, there can be resistance to removing it, even when a proper solution becomes available. This can perpetuate the use of suboptimal methods long after they are necessary or beneficial.
  • Security Risks: Workarounds may bypass or weaken security measures, leaving systems vulnerable to attacks or breaches. For example, disabling certain security features to make a workaround function may expose the system to greater risk.
  • Lack of Documentation: Workarounds are often implemented quickly without proper documentation or consideration for long-term implications. This lack of documentation can make it difficult for future maintainers to understand why the workaround was implemented and how it interacts with the rest of the system.

Overall, while workarounds and hacks can be necessary in the short-term to keep systems running, they should be viewed as temporary measures rather than permanent solutions. It’s important to address the root causes of problems and invest in proper solutions to prevent the accumulation of technical debt and complexity over time.

It’s your choice on when and how you deal with the issue – pay now or pay later. Either way you pay.