How many times have we tried to take a shortcut in life and we later learned that it was not so short after all? As a matter of fact, it ultimately turned into a longcut! This is a key observation that I noticed both when I performed unsuccessful tasks and by watching others. The most noticeable outcomes were recognized in the form of an illness, injury or property damage. Many times, after evaluating the cost of a shortcut turning into a longcut, I realized that cutting corners just does not pay.
What is in it for us as it relates to the shortcut? Shortcuts have the potential to save time, money and effort, if they work. A successful shortcut can also give a person the sense of pride and accomplishment that they were clever enough to have pulled one off, hence leading to more shortcuts. Shortcuts come in the form of series and parallel work (multi-tasking), and are performed by both experienced and non-experienced people attempting to achieve their desired outcome. Additionally, shortcuts can occur both at home and at work. Which place do you think is the most dangerous when it comes to taking shortcuts, and why?
If I were to ask a group of adults what the most common shortcut they take each day is, they might struggle with coming up with an answer. After all, are we not supposed to maximize our efficiency when it comes to addressing our immediate needs? The shortcut that comes to my mind is how drivers knowingly speed in a vehicle even though the sign just reflected the speed LIMIT. Many good short cutters would come up with some wonderful logic as to why the speed limit sign is wrong. One might think that it will not happen to me, the sign applies to other less qualified drivers, there are too many laws, the speed limit is merely a guideline or range, or that their time constraint is more important than the other driver’s safety.
While growing up and working, I saw firsthand (no pun intended) how taking shortcuts cost the person performing the work, dearly. On the first occasion, an employee was in a hurry and put a high pressure hose up the outlet end of a mud hog pump and then tried to blast the clogged debris from the pump, and the employee’s hand was too close, the water shot back and forced its way under the skin of the hand, severely injuring the employee. The employee had to be taken to the hospital and treated. The other incident occurred when millwrights were loading a flatbed trailer on a city street with large electrical components from the company’s warehouse. It was less than 0 degrees Fahrenheit and very windy. I noticed the leader of the millwrights literally running around the trailer. The leader’s focus was given to loading the trailer first and then securing the components. A gust of wind came up and blew an electrical panel off the trailer which hit the leader between the shoulders and he was taken to the hospital via ambulance. Finally, I was very young and helping someone cut firewood when they climbed on a wood pile and started cutting. The cutter did not bother to look at how the pile was arranged because their focus was on the desirable wood at the top of the pile. The wood pile shifted and the chainsaw cut the operator across the knee. The operator ended up going to the hospital.
In these three examples, notice how none of the intended results occurred but the direct opposite did? A quick root cause analysis (RCA) would point out major deficiencies in all three cases. I believe the three scenarios would score high for hurrying, not focusing on the task at hand, and not performing a pre-work review before beginning the job. So the next time you perform a task, are you going to take the shortcut or the longcut?
Contact me, Edward Ballo, at e3s Consulting for assistance with your company’s tasks or projects. Call 501-749-0912 or contact me online.