The Importance of Closing the Loop

Courtesy of Computer Technology Review

One of the most fundamental lessons in any professional, personal or social endeavour is to close the loop. Don't leave things hanging in mid-air or wait until they're forgotten (and forgiven). Chances are that they might come back again to haunt you if you don't hit that nail on the head until its well and truly level.

Now closing the loop doesn't mean that you should try to go for quick and easy wins all the time. Occasionally, one needs to consider if closing a small loop may result in tearing open a larger issue in the long-run. However, the key principle is that you should not leave issues or projects in limbo as far as you can help it.

Closing the loop means considering feedback, measurements, responses, complaints and directions, and feeding them back into the system. It means moving a particular case or project forward while bringing it to the next step. It may also mean killing an undertaking if its deemed to be time and energy wasting for all involved.

In the area of customer service, closing the loop is critical. Nobody likes to be kept in la-la land while awaiting an organisation's inefficient bureaucracy to resolve a service failure. In emergency services and crisis management, closing the loop is absolutely necessary. Nobody likes to be stranded in a fiery building for too long!

Naturally, there are reasons why issues are kept open. Often, it is a combination between the lack of political will to see something through, the lack of understanding of how to resolve thorny issues, as well as the lack of organisational or individual prioritisation.

There will also be times when your bosses will tell you not to waste your time on a specific issue. Should you bother putting your heart and soul into an endeavour that isn't going to bask in the limelight? And yet, like a mosquito buzzing into your ear, it is there.

Ignoring a nagging issue isn't going to make it disappear. Rather, one should take positive steps to highlight it (perhaps when the coast and timing is clear), suggest solutions to resolve it, and quickly file it away.

The next time you think about launching a new initiative, consider if you've got any prior ones still wafting about. Seek to bring closure to outstanding issues before you unveil the next bright-eyed bushy-tailed idea. In the long run, the organisation - and your career - will be the better for it.

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