It’s 2AM Saturday morning, you’re the on call technician who has been called out to a water damaged building and one of the things you’re faced with is that some of the carpet in the hall is soaking wet from a water damage that occurred a couple of hours ago. Do you extract the water and set up air movers? Pull up the carpet and pull out the pad? Tear out the carpet and pad, bagging it in 6 Mil bags for disposal?
What if the source of the water is a sewage backup, would that change your mind? How about if the property manager had called and owner was out of town and couldn’t be reached? What if it was in an assisted living facility with elderly residents?
What if it looked like there was mold on the wall? Or maybe it is an obviously high end residence with the same thick luxuriant patterned carpet thoughout both floors of the house? Or a 30 year old mobile home and the carpet is an orange shag that looks like it’s been there since the place was first set down? Does it matter if there is insurance coverage?
Each variable requires a decision resulting in (someone’s) money being spent and/or money saved. Indecision may mean wet materials sustain irreparable damage in the interim and whatever decision is made will be subject to kibbitzing by everyone that walks in on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday to assess the situation.
Like any business providing services, we spend a lot of effort learning the ins and outs of our niche, developing skills to meet whatever contingencies we might encounter and establishing systems to do what we can to provide a consistent result to people when they call.
We have binder after binder of protocols from different insurance companies describing how to meet their reporting requirements and more binders of training materials on “how-to” deal with about any damage situation. We have dozens of certificates on the walls from seminars, certification trainings and conferences on best practices.We have books of standards documents that spell out what we shall, should, can or may do on a water or mold damage to meet the definition of a qualified restoration company.
Unfortunately, when we try to come up with a standardized “best” answer for every contingency that might arise, one variable in the scenario changes and the “best” action requires a complete change in approach to bring about that “best” result. It seem the more rigid the rules, the less likely the people that actually go out and provide services at the site of the damage are likely to try and think through the situation to problem solve the best solution.
We realized long ago that, particularly in dealing with disasters large and small, anyone that goes into the field will regularly be faced with making decisions and taking actions at some point in time that have consequences impact the overall success of a project. It may be a marginal decision that turns out to be relatively inconsequential or a situation might arise that requires an immediate action that colors the conduct of the entire project. When that moment comes, we believe that if we can get the person closest to the moment to think about what we are trying to accomplish instead of just what we have “always” done in the past, we have the best chance of making the “best” decision under the circumstances.
We worked to distill what we felt were the most important decision making principles into a sort of battle cry for our employees to use in the field.
From the time a new employee comes on staff and throughout the time they are employed here, we stress that there is only one “wrong” answer if they are ever in a position where they must make a decision on the job and are later asked to explain why they took a particular action. That “wrong” answer is “I don’t know?” followed by some variation of “that’s what we’ve always done, that’s what we did last time, I didn’t think about it, etc., etc. “. To reasonably expect people to produce positive outcomes more often than not, decision makers at every level have to be given the tools to make judgements on the fly commensurate with their responsibilities. We think we have distilled that decision making process down to four one-word principles that, if put into the decision making process, make good outcomes much more likely.
Those four principles are our company battle cry. Over the next four blog postings, we’ll share those four and ask you to comment whether you agree.