Challenge Assumptions to Solve Problems

As a graduate engineer when I was still learning the ropes in a British company, I noticed something funny in the operation. When I asked why people did the way they were doing, an old supervisor replied, ‘That has been going on for the last 30 years. It is a standard operating procedure. And we have to go by the book.”


To this I said, ‘But well, this is a darn wrong way of doing it. It has no logic. It is a sheer waste of time, money and manpower. Why don’t we stop doing that?”


The old supervisor looked in my eyes and replied, “Who has the guts to do that? What happens if the method you suggest fails? Who would take the blame? And why must I take the risk of losing my job? I understand that you don’t care whether you lose yours.”


Not to be taken aback, I said calmly, “I take the blame. I take the risk. I would lose my job if it fails. But please do it my way. The present method does not make any sense.”


Seeing me insist he relented, “I would do it as you say. But you cover my ass.”


The deal was sealed. The change worked and the results were worth being proud of. We waited for the first 1000 pieces to be shipped before deciding to report the fantastic savings the change has brought about.


When the D Day came I asked the old man to report it to the boss, allowing him to take the credit for the improvement.


On hearing the brave account, the Boss stared at us for some time before commenting, “Wasn’t that natural? I knew it all along. It was plain common-sense.”  


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