Don’t Send a Technician to do an Engineers’ Job

'We have power: This seems to be working fine'

Just over 12 years ago we renovated an old house. The rebuilt structure required a brand new roof which worked great for 11.3 years. Then, about a year ago, we noticed a small damp patch on the bedroom ceiling. Faced with a key DIY job, I did what every self-respecting male does and ignored it. Perhaps secretly hoping that the water would run upwards, having a new law in Physics specifically named after me for discovering this unique counterflow.

Problem Continues: It continued to rain and the water continued to run downwards. A damp patch eventually became a damp piece. The plaster fell off the ceiling onto the floor and it’s hard to ignore a direct view of the attic when you’re lying in bed. The conversation with Linda was par for the course: “Ok, ok. I’ll get someone to fix it”.

First Guy: I phoned a local builder. Really nice guy who showed up at the front door with a tube of mastic and a ladder and made the repair. 3 days later, drip, drip, drip. That’s the great thing about Irish weather; you don’t have long to wait to check on the effectiveness of a roof repair.

Second Guy: We secured the services of Linda’s brothers’ best friend. This was a really good idea; get a plasterer to fix the roof. He also arrived with a tube of mastic (they must be standard issue to builders). A day later and we heard it again; drip, drip, drip, drip, drip. The leak had actually become worse. A bucket in the centre of the floor was keeping the bedroom from turning into a Jacuzzi.

Third Man: Eventually, I rang the Architect who was involved in the renovation and he sourced a specialist roofing guy. Surprisingly, he arrived sans mastic or ladders. But he checked the job (twice) and did a whole load of other stuff (removing tiles, talking to the window manufacturer etc.). Then he fixed the leak and guess what? It worked.

Key Roles: A long time ago in General Electric I learned an early lesson in Management. You don’t send a technician to do an engineers job. If you don’t send the right person in the first time, you end re-doing the job, after a lot of false dawns and stupid spending. Putting Tony or Teresa into a key role because they are available, is a recipe for underperformance. For sure, people can grow and develop. They can rise to the challenge through a combination of solid coaching and being allowed to have a go. And you should certainly use non-critical roles to blood new talent, getting them ready for tomorrow. But, as a leader, you are not in the business of gambling. If you have a critical role to be completed right now, drop your best talent into the slot. A qualified and trusted lieutenant who will deliver the goods. In order to secure the future, you have to make the organization perform along two timeframes. Managing today is easy. Managing tomorrow is easy. Managing both, now that’s really difficult. The Lesson: Use your best horses on key jobs.

Paul Mooney

PS A contact in the golf club who is ‘socially conscious’, suggested launching a campaign to get Clontarf rezoned as D4N. I think he was joking.


About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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