By Don Desrosiers, Tailwind Systems
A long time ago, someone probably told you, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” It’s the kind of wisdom everybody knows, but still you must hear every now and again as sort of a reminder. It’s true, you know. Two wrongs, never make a right! But guess what? Employees think two wrongs do make a right and they try to get us to believe they are right. This is one of the reasons why management makes us crazy. Here are some examples:
The Case of the Missing Button
A customer returns a shirt with a missing button. You bring it to the responsible person; the shirt inspector. The shirt inspector made a mistake (“wrong” number one) and she says, “But the mark-in person failed to make a notation that there was a missing button on the shirt.” The buck is successfully passed, the check-in person (allegedly) made a mistake (“wrong” number two). The mistake by the shirt inspector is trivialized, or minimized even though she is just as wrong as if the check-in person had done her job or not. The manager does not reprimand the shirt inspector because she did not get the support of the check-in person. Both people failed at their jobs. Perhaps neither gets reprimanded nor retrained. Who was wrong? Both. We think they were both half wrong (which isn’t true), so we correct neither. Two wrongs made it right, sort of. Two wrongs made a right in the eyes of the shirt inspector and that inspector – at the very least – made an attempt to get you to buy-in to that belief. They may have succeeded.
The Mal-Adjusted Shirt Press(er)
A minor adjustment needs to be made on the shirt unit that affects the quality of the press job. The presser is questioned about it and he proclaims that the maintenance man told him that he can’t get to it until the end of the week. The maintenance man’s deferred maintenance is affecting the quality of your product. The presser is producing an inferior product. Two wrongs. The presser feels he isn’t doing anything wrong now. This is accepted as right. This can’t be. Two wrongs do not make it right but neither person is reprimanded while both are wrong. Quality standards are lowered and it is okay somehow. Management makes you crazy. The world is trying to make management impossible!
All Work Done On Premises
I implemented a set of new procedures at a drop store of a new client some years ago as they adopted the Tailwind System. Due to a strange, unpredictable set of circumstances, this drop store did not have an attendant scheduled to work for about an hour one day. The owner’s executive assistant – let’s call her “Janice” -promptly volunteered to cover the store for that hour.
The next day, the owner and I happened to show up at that store at a time after the appointed hour had come and gone. The store manager was back on duty. I inspected the work done at the store, earlier in the day. This was the work done by the executive assistant “Janice,” and it wasn’t done correctly. I brought it to the attention of the owner and then to the attention of the manager – we’ll call her Margaret.” “Not my problem, that was Janice. I wasn’t here,” Janice said.
I didn’t say much. The owner and I left. In the car, the owner said “Margaret’s right, that happened while Janice was here.” The owner thinks the manager made no mistakes, when in reality, she made two big mistakes. Margaret thinks she isn’t responsible for what happens when she isn’t there, but as the manager, she is. She made two mistakes because 1) she didn’t inspect the work of an untrained subordinate (Janice) when she wasn’t there and, 2) she thinks as a manager she is only responsible for what happens when she is on premises. If that were true, she would be little more than a babysitter. No wonder, management makes you crazy. The entire world is conspiring to make management impossible. Don’t let the world win! You know what is right!
Seeking Sanity in a Mismanaged World
Management will drive you crazy if you don’t treat it like management. We have trouble managing because we don’t really do it, that’s why. The best advice I can give along those lines is to never ask a question to which you don’t already know the answer. Always know how someone will respond when you say something to them and you’ll never be blind-sided. If you are rendered speechless, a confrontation will likely end and you miss the opportunity to resolve an issue.
I support good management and I try not to support bad management. Some of you I have worked with in person may remember the following about me. When I am in a fast food restaurant, I don’t want to bus my own table when I am done eating my meal. If I do, I feel like I am supporting bad management. Think about this. The next time that you go into a Burger King or a Taco Bell or KFC or other fast food place, you will look for a place to sit down and eat. Often, the vacant tables, will have food litter all over the seats and the table. The previous diners may have thrown away their bags and wrappers, but they didn’t wipe down the table.
Now, management has absolutely no compulsion to clear the tables and clean them. Their cleanliness standards have been lowered to the standards of their sloppiest customers. I believe I am doing them a favor by leaving my trash on the table because this encourages the managers to send a trained employee out to the dining room to clear my table and clean the table and seats. I feel certain that they think that I am a slob, but I think I am doing them a huge favor. I am giving them the opportunity to raise the cleanliness standards of their restaurant. I know I am not likely to ever win this argument, but I am convinced I am right.
Somewhere along the line, they thought, “Why should we clean these tables when Joe-consumer is perfectly happy bussing his own table? Let’s leave well enough alone!” Suppose we tried that in our businesses? We would clean and press everything, have people pay for what they left with us but they would assemble their own orders and bag them up. We would still check to make sure they only took what they ordered.
It’s difficult to stick to your guns when you are managing and running a business because there are so many forces working against you. But when you come to terms with that and don’t allow them to get the best of you, you will run a much tighter ship!
Don Desrosiers has been in the drycleaning and shirt laundering business since 1978. He is a workflow engineer and a management consultant who provides serves to shirt launderers and drycleaners in the United States, Mexico, and western Europe through Tailwind Systems. He is a member of the Society of Professional Consultants and the 2001 recipient of DLI’s Commitment to Professionalism Award. He can be reached at 186 Narrow Avenue, Westport, MA 02790 or at his office by fax (508) 636-8839; by cell (508) 965-3163; or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. He has a website at
www.tailwindsystems.com. The author’s views are his own and do not
represent official Drycleaning & Laundry Institute positions.