Per Unit

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Sunsets in our part of the word are spectacular.  Not always, but generally. The sky displays brilliant shades of reds, organges, and blues. The colors are constantly changing. It’s like watching a living kaleidoscope. This show is especially brilliant when you’re on the water. The kaleidoscope in the sky is reflected and transformed into a kaleidoscope on the water. The waves, current, and motion of the boat add an element of the unknown and change the colors even more dramatically. I wish everyone had the opportunity to see this amazing show take place. It’s impressive.

As we were returning from a weekend dive trip recently, I was watching the show. To my right, the north, the sky was already dark. To the left, the south, the colors were still at work. I was listening to the boat’s engine and watching the spray from the outriggers (commonly found on the banca-style dive boat we were using) jump up into the colors of the sky. It was almost like I was being hypnotized.

Most of my friends and dive companions were asleep or playing games on their iPads. A few were talking. I was watching the show. And while I was watching the show, I started reliving the trip. We’d been gone for a day. Early departure, late arrival. We’d seen some amazing things. Truly God’s creative handiwork under water. Turtle. Barracuda. Frogfish. Nudibrachs. Spectacularly colored coral. Impressive and awe-inspiring.

We were fortunate. Fortunate to have our health. To live in a place where diving like this is common-place and accessible. To have money for the necessary gear. To have great friends to enjoy the adventure. I was appreciative. I was also thinking about the cost. I can’t help it. It’s in my DNA. My job requires I think a lot about cost (both my job at home and my job at work). I have to meet the budget. Make sure there’s money for the mortgage, college tuition, utilities, food, clothing, entertainment, church, etc. And that’s just at home. At work, I have to ensure we meet the monthly, quarterly, and annual cost targets. I’m accountable for total cost, cost per unit, labor cost, blah blah blah. In total, I probably have close to 50 different cost metrics for which I’m responsible. … I spend a lot of time thinking about cost.

As I was watching the beautiful sunset, I was also thinking about cost. Cost per dive. You see, my natural flinch, my natural wiring is to think cost per unit. So, inevitably I think about cost per dive. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong. Some have a natural flinch to think about total cost. Not me.

Let me give an example. Let’s say your car is broken and you take it in for an estimate. The first mechanic says it will cost $150 and take him about an hour. The second mechanic says it will cost $350 and take him five hours. Now, I don’t about you, but I immediately feel like the first mechanic is overcharging me because his hourly rate is much higher! Forget the fact that the total cost is lower! I’m not saying it’s a rationale thought-process, I’m just saying that I’m naturally wired to think about cost per unit first. I force myself to bring total cost into the mix.

As I thought about the cost per dive on our 1-day weekending getaway, I was glad we’d added the third dive. You see the weather was threating late in the afternoon and it was 50/50 whether we’d get the third dive in. And while the main costs were the boat-related costs (ie fuel), the cost of the tank for the third dive was minor. The cost per dive would have jumped up significantly if we’d eliminated the third dive. So even though I spent more in total by adding the third dive, I felt better about it because I’d reduced my cost per dive. My cost per unit.

Now be honest. Some of you buy everything this way. That’s why you come home from Costco with enough toilet tissue to last 5 years. Or why you’re constantly “saving” so much money with the sales items you purchased at the mall.

In sum, all I’m asking is for you to be aware of how you view cost in your decision-making process. World-class leaders think about both. Total cost and cost per unit.

What’s important to you? Total cost or cost per unit? Both? Are you aware of your preference during decision-making?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

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