It’s Time to Fix Stupid

I am a firm believer that regardless of how some people say that “you can’t fix stupid”, it is fixable and can be very rewarding if done right. That being said, I will admit that I have seen some people do some pretty stupid things over the years. For example, I have seen:

  • A customer tell a quick lube technician that he thinks he has a gas leak around his engine and would the technician mind seeing if he could find it. The technician (having just attended a seminar that emphasized customer service) eagerly agreed to do what he could. After placing the vehicle on a lift and walking under it, he took out his trusty lighter and began to flick it so that he could have a little more light to see. Luckily, someone stopped him before the lighter (and probably the technician) found the leak and burst into flames.
  • A construction worker in the attic of a new home, trying to complete the finishing touches before the final walkthrough by the homeowner, decided to take a shortcut. However, in his haste, he slipped and fell between the ceiling studs. Unfortunately, the new owners were ahead of schedule and as they opened the front door, the worker’s leg came crashing through the ceiling! Not a good way to make a great impression!
  • A technician completing the install of a new door on a bank vault (yes, a very large vault, not a small safe), set the combination and then closed the door so he could test that it worked. Unfortunately, he had left the new combination on the inside of the vault! The company was forced to cut through the side of the vault to gain access to the inside so they could reset the combination.

Were these stupid people? No, these were intelligent people, trying to do the right thing but going about it in the wrong way. They allowed the situation to control them, rather than them controlling the situation. These situations could have been prevented very easily if the right steps had been taken or the proper groundwork set. In each of the cases above, management reacted quickly although not necessarily properly. Let’s take a look at each situation.

  • Gas leak. This could have been prevented very easily if the technician had been trained in safety and not just customer service. The shop was gung-ho to stress customer service first and foremost, but had failed to train staff members in the basics of safety. The technician had a goal, but failed to grasp the basic fundamentals needed to reach his goal in a safe manner.
  • Hole in the attic. The worker was so focused on completing his task that he failed to consider the possible consequences of his actions. If he would have stayed on the proper walkway rather than trying to take a shortcut, his situation could have been prevented.
  • No combination. Since the safe company did not have a well-defined protocol or procedure of how to install a combination lock, the technician was left to his own initiative of the best way to complete his job. Unfortunately, he was fairly new to the job (less than a month) and this was his first solo installation.

All of these situations occurred because of one of, or a combination of, the following issues:

  • A lack of understanding of how to evaluate the goals or how to reach them,
  • A lack of understanding how to eliminate unnecessary goals or ideas,
  • A lack of education on the subject, and
  • A lack of motivation.

These are all a direct result of a failure in management. One of the main duties of management is to protect your employees. This requires you to have an “all-seeing” frame of mind so you can prevent problems by constantly being aware of your people and their capabilities/shortcomings. By keeping your “mind on the mission” you can hopefully prepare and implement a plan to prevent situations like those listed above. What was the final result in these situations?

  • The technician was fired, creating additional issues for both the shop and the employee.
  • The company took the time to properly train the worker on safety and he became a valuable asset and long term employee.
  • The technician called his office and explained the situation, then walked out the door. He never returned to the company, instead he mailed his uniform and tools back to them and went to find another job.

No one said being in management would be easy. It is challenging, heart breaking, stressful and not very rewarding at times, but it can also be the most fun you will ever have if done right. If it isn’t fun, then get out and do something else.

Author: Ken W

Operations management professional with 20+ years experience in building customer -focused, enthusiastic teams in nationally ranked businesses.

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