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remember that one time

Remember that one time when something went wrong?
Remember that crazy person who did that thing?
Everyone is messing up!
We have a huge problem. It’s happening a lot!

In hotels, maybe a youth sports team was horrible. The parents were drunk, careless, and loud. The kids ran wild. The place was a mess. Other guests complained. Maybe you should assume all teams are that bad and walk away from ___% of our business. Note that this is easier done in good times, and then find yourself begging for them back in the hard times.

In a web or software business, maybe one customer requests a feature that will take an inordinate amount of time.

In the car business, maybe 2 engines from newer models failed last month.

In disaster response, we might approach a building with major damage. We might see one person stumbling out with a broken arm. It would be careless to think that there is a building full of people with broken arms. But we do this in business enough to be noticeable (or ‘all the time’).

Have you ever changed a policy or procedure because of that one time? Have you ever called out a single issue and treated it as if the sky was falling? Have you ever accepted an exaggeration as the truth (someone else said “it’s happening all the time”). I have made these mistakes a number of times.

It’s important to address issues and shortcomings. It’s important to recognize when there is a real problem. It is important to listen to our customers. Maybe that idea is awesome. Maybe it is just the start of an awesome idea. Maybe we do have a problem.

Maybe we can blame ourselves for not anticipating a need or providing entertainment to the group. Maybe the one feature only would matter to the one person. Maybe that feature clutters the page and takes away from your mission of simplicity. Maybe there are much bigger/smaller problems in that building.

As humans, it is easy to remember the exceptions. It’s easy to believe that the exception might mean everything. It’s easy to seek to find blame. It’s easy to create a new policy or procedure. It’s easy to assume everything is all messed up. It’s easy to assume every customer in the same situation will also be a problem.

When we have 10,000 customers and 2 complaints, we may not have a big issue.

Have the courage to:
Step back.
Ask questions.
Ask more questions.
Ask more questions.
Seek other sources.
Ask more questions.
See the whole picture.
Ask more questions about your findings.

Maintaining perspective may help us maintain sanity. Maintaining perspective will help us serve the greater good.

Have the courage to separate that one time from all of the time.

The Chris Farley Show - © Saturday Night Live - NBC - Broadway Video

The Chris Farley Show – © Saturday Night Live – NBC – Broadway Video