Sometimes Being Wrong is The Right Thing

Do you think the statement “Sometimes being is the right thing to do ” sounds wrong? Aren’t we taught throughout life to do things right? Well, sometimes it is good for the growth of either an individual or team to knowingly be wrong as long as the outcome is right.

Defining the Problem

As the VP of Operations, I was responsible for manufacturing, which included both the upkeep and the maintenance of the equipment. With my engineering background, I was always intrigued by resolving problems and issues. As the years progressed, I became more knowledgeable about the equipment. In this particular case, a processing machine would occasionally cause an issue that created a good amount of scrap. In the past, as time permitted, I personally ran some experiments to hopefully isolate the problem. Unfortunately, I was not successful. This problem was very difficult to resolve.

Ineffectively Supporting the Team

So, I met with the maintenance team and asked them to design some experiments to locate the root cause of the problem. Anyway, a day or so later, they came to me

               Which Way Do I Take?

with some ideas. Since I personally worked on this problem, I thought I was doing the right thing in telling the team that I had already tried their ideas and it produced unsuccessful results. We had several meetings where I informed them that I already tried their idea and it didn’t work. I thought sharing my failures with them was good feedback so they could concentrate on new ideas.

However, I started to notice they weren’t so forthcoming with additional ideas. After thinking about it, I realized I was demoralizing them. To them, they were coming up with good ideas which I was shooting down. I think they thought if I tried everything, why am I asking them. Yet, I was stumped and I needed fresh eyes on the problem. I truly trusted them but they didn’t feel that.

Effectively Supporting the Team

So, the next time they came to me with ideas, I decided I would accept any idea they suggested even if I previously tried it and knew the results. I guess I ran more experiments that I thought because they did come up with some ideas that I already tried. However, this time I didn’t provide my previous results. I simply said that it sounds like a great idea and they should try it. Even when it failed as I knew it would, I simply supported their efforts.

This happened a few times along with the ideas they suggested. I noticed that once I simply supported their efforts, their enthusiasm increased. They were bound and determined to find the problem, which they eventually did.

The moral of this story is “Sometimes being wrong is the right thing to do”. In this case, it leads to great results with a proud team. I can see other aspects of life other than a business where this would be quite beneficial such as being a parent. Sometimes your children need to fail to grow and no words that you can possibly say will be as helpful as letting them learn on their own. You just need to support them.

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One thought on “Sometimes Being Wrong is The Right Thing

  1. Josh says:

    Jim this really resonated with me based off our conversation today as well as our previous ones. I routinely ran into this throughout college in maintenance and working for a few factories where a process from someone who didn’t value what their team can contribute to the conversation made things less efficient in the end. My father who is also an engineer, and I get into these conversations all of the time and it was refreshing being able to think through the blog but more specifically this post as it really resonated with me.
    It goes right along with James’ posts about management styles. Thank you for sharing this with me.

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