I had an interesting experience the other day that got me thinking about how we, as a society, approach problems (and more importantly how we set about fixing them).
Unfortunately, all too often, the second a problem arises we have a tendency to start looking for somebody to blame.
It seems to be the default mechanism of far too many people these days.
It happens in politics, in sport, in manufacturing and in business (both big and small).
And it happens in the construction industry too and that’s a shame because the building and renovation game has more than enough stress attached without adding to the pressure.
As I mentioned earlier, I faced a situation recently where the “blame game” could have come into effect, but it wasn’t so much everyone ducking for cover and pointing fingers – the difficulty was more establishing what was wrong and who would be able to fix it.
It all started when I got a call from my tiler alerting me to a problem he was facing with some tiles our client wanted.
We had sourced some gorgeous glass tiles (with an intricate pattern as part of the design), but we hit a snag when my tiler discovered that they would break the second he began cutting them.
Given he’s a qualified professional, who has been in the business for more than 15 years, I knew it wasn’t his doing – so, we had no option other than contacting the tile company to see what could be worked out.
Unable to pinpoint the problem, the tile rep then contacted the manufacturer who explained how the tiles should be cut.
The problem was, we were already following their instructions to the letter, but due to the unique design of the tiles they continued to break.
Not only was this frustrating for my tiler (and me) it also had the potential to become a very expensive exercise as we progressed.
Lost tiles aside, there was also the cost implications of not being able to complete the works to schedule – my tiler was held up while the problem dragged on and any subsequent tradies were also inconvenienced as they needed him to finish before they could complete their jobs.
This constant toing and froing from tiler to tile company to rep to manufacturer and back down the line again was time consuming and made me feel like we were running around in circles.
Eventually, we had no option but to return the tiles to the tile manufacturer to have them identify what was going wrong.
In a way, we did them a favour because they discovered that the tiles’ unique design wouldn’t allow them to be cut conventionally – this was important because it was a product anomaly that would affect anyone who purchased the tile.
It highlighted what we thought all along.
This was a product problem, not a people problem and I didn’t care who fixed the problem – I just wanted it fixed.
It’s not about blame…..it’s about solutions.
Having identified the problem, the manufacturers are now working with us to cut the tiles to our specifications in their factory and we’ll be able to install them as planned.
They’ve been very helpful and I appreciate that they understand our repeated enquiries were never meant to be “personal”.
They were never meant to embarrass an individual or question the integrity of the business or the quality of its products.
This was simply a situation where I needed someone (anyone) to put their hand up and say: “Kathy, this is what we’re going to do”.
To their credit, the manufacturer came through and we were able to overcome the setback.
And I thank them for that.
I don’t like witch-hunts (they belong in the olden days).
Instead, I say let’s work together to identify problems and what’s needed to rectify them.
When we do, we get much better outcomes….and ultimately, tradies, suppliers and, most importantly, the clients win.
And that, as we must always remember, is the very reason why we’re in this business.