woman trying to build furniture

DIY: Resourceful or Destructive?

erinzimmerman Blog, Collaboration, Transformation

“I can do it myself.” Our first words were most likely “mama” or “dada,” but this statement probably came third. The evolution of this declaration was with us when we were 4 learning how to tie our shoes, only to create an undoable knot; when we were 16 learning to drive only to explain how a parked car came out of nowhere, and now when we are in career paths learning how to make our organizations better, faster, stronger, only to realize we are making them slower and more complex. There’s a certain satisfaction of accomplishment that comes from being able to do it yourself; I can relate after assembly of an Ikea dresser, I pranced around with a puffed chest wanting to shout “I am woman!” We all know this feeling, it’s addicting, but when does it go too far? When do we need to admit, “I need help.”

Most of us are familiar with Pinterest—the black hole of DIY undertakings. It’s starts small; how to make authentic guacamole or a mason jar light fixture—then gets progressively worse—how to turn a tire into an ottoman (genius, I know), or lay your own plumbing lines. It becomes limitless. Sometimes it takes a good friend to sit you down, pull the hot glue out of your hair and wipe the grease off your face to say “its caused more harm than good.” I’m not saying this mindset should be done away with, in fact, it can lead to great successes such as Tesla’s DIY ERP system and CBS’ DIY Content Management System. The tipping point is to know where your expertise starts and where it falls short to avoid being destructive rather than resourceful.

Unfortunately, this destruction is noticed in many businesses today. It starts when a PM or Executive rubs their hands together in anticipation of creating yet another project to their name, leaving behind their “legacy”—as they call it. I have seen these legacy trails at various clients: what was once their pride and joy custom built system has become obsolete, too costly to maintain, and ROI never realized. Or, there are the excuses of why outside help isn’t needed—we know ourselves best, or we are too complex and “special” to consider migrating to an integrated platform. “Over time, the customization grows deeper and deeper. More products are bolted on. But just like a homegrown system, a software demise begins.”[1] Did I get some head nods and raised hands?

Collaboration is the new black, and although spray paint may transform anything, continuously attempting projects where expertise is absent does not. The determination is commendable, but with today’s market advancing and competing as never before, the F.O.K.U (Fear of Keeping Up) kicks in. Leveraging help outside and across an organization “will lead to the creation of entire ecosystems where partners, customers, and even competitors will find themselves working side-by-side to solve problems and open up new opportunities for growth.”[2] The world may be round, but the organization is becoming flat.

Experimentation alongside expertise, will complement the demands of modernization and adaptability. This is shifting the paradigm of traditional business models by breaking down hierarchical silos so every person will have the opportunity to influence change, choosing cooperation over bureaucracy, and viewing mistakes as portals of discovery. It is less about the do it yourself success of an individual, and more about the do it together success as a whole. There is no “I” in team; this is today’s differentiator.


About Erin

Erin Zimmerman was a Senior Consultant with IBM before joining our team. Her expertise includes Supply Chain, Process Excellence, strategic planning, and project management. Erin says what makes her tick is flaky croissants, morning coffee, tree run skiing, adding stamps to her passport, and running.


[1] Clement, Russell. 2015. “Why Every Company Ultimately Outgrows its Homegrown Software System”. Link.

[2] Ardi, Dana.  2014. “The Future of Business: 4 Ways Companies Will Change”. translate Link.