Take a risk by challenging 'conventional wisdom'

Conventional wisdom…is the safest route, the path of least resistance, but it isn’t a path to greater success. It is just an avoidance of possible failure.

12/13/2013


Thanksgiving is fellowship, and a pause in our year to reflect on the bounty of our blessings. Thanksgiving is a repast complete with turkey and stuffing and cranberries and leftover turkey, which is used to make MY favorite holiday treat, a cold turkey sandwich the next day. And Thanksgiving is football, wherein I eat my cold turkey sandwich while planted in front of the TV watching the endless parade of football instead of standing in line for the Thanksgiving weekend store bargains.

And this particular Thanksgiving football weekend, there were three especially notable football events, each remarkable in their own way:

  • Michigan losing 42-41 to Ohio State when the Wolverines decide to go for a two-point conversion with 31 seconds to play and fail to convert.
  • Alabama losing to Auburn 34-28 when Alabama tries a game-winning 57-yard field goal. The kick came up short, and Auburn’s Chris Davis returned the kick 109 yards out of the end zone for a touchdown as time expired.
  • The Chicago Bears losing 23-20 to Minnesota in overtime after kicker Robbie Gould missed what would have been a record-shattering 66-yard field goal as time expired in regulation, and then missed a 47-yard kick in overtime because his coach decided against trying to get closer for a shorter kick.

The winners here each get a tally mark under the ‘Win’ column, but I’d rather focus on the losers here. Each of them tried something remarkable and failed, and that failure cost them the victory. The question, however, is whether there is more to be celebrated by the attempt than by the outcome.

It is clear that we are an outcome-based society. We keep score of everything, and our psyche is buoyed or crushed by the outcome. From weekend box office results to the sales figures from Black Friday (another Thanksgiving tradition) to the monthly ISM manufacturing numbers, we just can’t help but rank ourselves based on the numbers game. Yet sometimes it is trial and error that we find the way to greater success.

We have common practices in our manufacturing plants. We have tried-and-true methods of operating our facilities. In an effort not to disrupt what already seems to be working just fine, we don’t try to get better.

This is called “conventional wisdom.” It is the safest route, the path of least resistance. It is vanilla. There is nothing wrong with any of that, except that it isn’t a path to greater success. It is just an avoidance of possible failure.

So do we risk failure or avoid greater success? Let’s look at the results:

  • Michigan lost a chance to beat Ohio State—its greatest rival—and ruin the Buckeyes’ hopes for a national championship.
  • Alabama certainly lost its chance for a national championship.
  • The Bears almost certainly cost itself a chance at the NFC playoffs.

It doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement for challenging conventional wisdom. But the problem wasn’t in the attempt. The failure was in the execution.

So what we can learn most from our weekend of football? It’s that challenging conventional wisdom takes two parts: the attempt and the execution. We often stop ourselves at the attempt. We aren’t willing to change the way we do things because we’re afraid to fail, and in a world that prizes victory above almost all else, failure is not an acceptable outcome.

I would argue a more dangerous trend is to fail to try. In trying there will be failure, but there also can be greater success than anyone might expect. In order to succeed, though, it’s not just about the attempt, but also the execution. If you can prepare yourself and your team for both, you tip the scales away for a 50-50 proposition and in your favor.

We are at the point in our manufacturing resurgence that we need to get better at what we do. This will require changing things that have helped the resurgence in the first place. And change is hard.

Our annual Top Plant issue shows that excellence is not about being content with yesterday or today, but having a clear vision on what is possible tomorrow. It is important to take risks to get better, and it is important to have a plan to mitigate those risks with extraordinary execution.

Regardless of the outcome of any single event, I believe that taking calculated risks gets you further in the long run than just by standing pat.



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Your leaks start here: Take a disciplined approach with your hydraulic system; U.S. presence at Hannover Messe a rousing success
Hannover Messe 2016: Taking hold of the future - Partner Country status spotlights U.S. manufacturing; Honoring manufacturing excellence: The 2015 Product of the Year Winners
Inside IIoT: How technology, strategy can improve your operation; Dry media or web scrubber?; Six steps to design a PM program
Getting to the bottom of subsea repairs: Older pipelines need more attention, and operators need a repair strategy; OTC preview; Offshore production difficult - and crucial
Digital oilfields: Integrated HMI/SCADA systems enable smarter data acquisition; Real-world impact of simulation; Electric actuator technology prospers in production fields
Special report: U.S. natural gas; LNG transport technologies evolve to meet market demand; Understanding new methane regulations; Predictive maintenance for gas pipeline compressors
Warehouse winter comfort: The HTHV solution; Cooling with natural gas; Plastics industry booming
Managing automation upgrades, retrofits; Making technical, business sense; Ensuring network cyber security
Designing generator systems; Using online commissioning tools; Selective coordination best practices

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role that compressed air plays in manufacturing plants.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me