File under “personal truths I shouldn’t divulge”: I’m terrible about going to the dentist.
To be clear, I’m not saying I’m bad about dental hygiene. I usually avoid sugar and sodas, brush with a fancy electric toothbrush…I even floss fairly regularly. But I rarely think about going to the dentist unless something hurts; when I chip a tooth cutting fishing line or lose a filling because there was a pebble in my black beans. (Both true stories, by the way…)
A few years back, I had a dentist whose office personnel aggressively tracked me down every six months to make sure I was scheduled for my regular appointment. I’ll give a completely true example: On vacation in Italy, I’m piloting a rented motorboat in ten-foot waves to see the beautiful towns of the Cinque Terre, and my cell phone rings. “This is Dr. -------‘s office, just calling to set up your 6 month cleaning and exam.” Me: “I’m in Italy, can we discuss when I get back?” They: “Well, you’re already late, so we’ll just pencil you in for the Tuesday after you get back. How’s that sound?” Me, thoroughly chastened: “Yes, ma’am.”
What, you may be wondering, is the point of all this? Like me, you may subconsciously view the Dentist as the person you need when something hurts, but not before. You could probably argue that the whole infrastructure of health care in the United States functions that way, in fact; but we all know, on a cognitive level, what the problem is with that kind of thinking: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and all that.
If we wait until it hurts, we miss the opportunity to catch problems before they’re critical. Moreover, we pass up on opportunities to improve our routines before issues even develop. We tend not to see our healthcare providers as healthy lifestyle partners, but as a last resort. A dentist might recommend a new and improved dental regimen, or a doctor suggest lifestyle changes well before issues arise; but we miss that opportunity because we avoid their counsel until we’re sick or suffering through a toothache.
I talk to business owners all week long who take a similar approach to their company’s technology situation. They “have a guy” they call when things break, maybe even in-house, but otherwise IT is an afterthought, a stack of tinder and matches to be ignored until the fire starts. Just like health care, however, that approach overlooks untold opportunities to use technology to improve processes, work more efficiently, and stave off potential liabilities long before they become problems.
“We’re fine.” “Nothing’s currently broken or burning.” We know that’s just rationalization when it comes to our health; why do we similarly neglect the technology that is the lifeblood of the modern business? Many organizations are well past due for an IT checkup; for that matter, many lack a real partner they can count on. How do you know your technology situation is up to snuff? If you don’t have a substantive answer to that question, it might be time for a check-up.