Damned Engineers

Engineers are literalists. (I am one.) Has its virtues. (Good bridges ... if you're a Civil Engineer like me.) But there are also problems ... if you're managing people (people mess up everything, as we engineers all know) and/or attempting to bring about Big Change.

I once worked with a troubled aerospace firm. At the end of a crucial offsite, the Boss summarized the findings, and declared the fix as good as done. As I recall he said something like, "We've discovered that virtually all our issues boil down to simple mis-communications problems. So let's commit here and now to putting this chapter behind us."


Many/most engineers (and other literalists) more or less implicitly believe, I've observed, that if you collect the facts, arrive at a logical conclusion, and explain yourself in plain English—you ought not be troubled by having to explain it or say it again. But the fact is—in the Real World—that there's only one operative rule: REPETITION RULES!

I've reluctantly come to understand this over the years. Recently a trusted colleague, an academic and a woman, sent me an email after I shared something I'd just written with her. "I'm glad you won't let up on your 'Women's Rants,'" she wrote. "Most academics say something, assume that once it's in print it becomes the last word, and move on. Fact is, tectonic plates shift very slowly—and only merciless repetition, perhaps over a period that extends out a decade or more, has even a slight hope of reversing the tide of conventional wisdom."

"Rapid change," then, typically occurs "rapidly" only after an idea has accreted and accreted and accreted through its ceaseless repetition to the point that it suddenly becomes inevitable—a tipping point occurs, to use the now overused phrase.


You want to make Stupendous Client Service Experiences the hallmark of your tour of duty? Proclaim it? Sure. Define it? Sure. Measure it? Sure. Put processes and incentives in place to enable it? Sure. But, mostly, consciously find three or four "minor" excuses a Day ... to reinforce your Personal Visible Commitment to Stupendous Client Service Experiences. (And, like the pols in election year, use the exact same phrase—Stupendous Client Service Experiences or some such—over and over, and over, again.)


Tom Peters posted this on August 27, 2004, in Service.
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