Little Problems Turn Into Big Problems

I recently drove a race car in the Le Mans Classic race and experienced something that is common in a variety of settings, from sport to business. And that is, leaving little problems unattended and allowing them to turn into big problems.

I’ve experienced this same thing in business. What seems like a minor issue, left alone and allowed to fester, turns into a big issue – things snowball out of control.

For example, every business has its values and cultures. Often, one person can have a big impact on a company’s culture… and that one person can often be the “little issue.” On its own, one person that doesn’t fit the company’s values and culture doesn’t seem to be a problem. On the surface, it’s not a problem. But over time, left unattended, this small issue will eat away at a company’s culture and values, until one day the leaders of the company step back and think, What happened?

That’s what happened in France, at Le Mans. The team owner thought that a “minor” mechanical issue would be okay without doing a fairly major repair. He felt that, left alone, it wouldn’t cause a problem. Instead, that minor issue led to a problem with another part in the car, which caused my co-driver to pull off the track, which caused the track safety crew to move the car, which lead to another problem… And it kept snowballing until we dropped out of the race.

Some people said we were unlucky. It had nothing to do with luck. It had to do with ignoring a small problem. In my experience, just about every example of bad luck can be traced back to a real cause. This was a good example of that. Or should I say, a bad example, because it should never have happened.

I’m not saying that every little issue needs to be made into a huge deal, but letting it go totally unattended could just be that cause of a major problem or issue in the near future.

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