Saturday, October 10, 2009

things learned in VIX - shit happens, and it's usually avoidable

I want things to go well, much like most other people. Perhaps the guy sitting in the basement twirling his mustache has other plans, but I'm going to assume that most people are on board for success. For now, let's ignore all the big, thorny complex ethical/morality issues and confine this to items immediately associated with work, where there is usually a very well-defined objective and everyone is on location working towards that objective. (In theory, there is always clearly stated objective, though some clients are maddeningly vague about what they want and evaluation criteria are often rather subjective.) If they are not interested in achieving the objective, then they probably would not be there in the first place.

Nonetheless, shit happens. More accurately put, undesirable and unplanned-for outcomes are sometimes reached. The worst part is that these outcomes are almost always preventable (and arguably they are always preventable). Put yet another way, if the desired outcome is success, then the undesired outcome is some level of failure.

If you had a direct role in the planning and/or execution of some activity where aforementioned unplanned-for outcomes occur, there is probably something you could have done to alter the course of events back towards their preferred outcome. Now, it does not mean that you screwed up, though you might have made critical mistakes or even worse, been willfully negligent or broken internal standards. It might have been something you were required to do, or supposed to do, or expected to do, or implicitly assumed to do but did not do. (Those are moving downward in the should-have-done scale of things.) It even could have been something that is not your direct/indirect responsibility or something that no one expects you to do on an even implicit level. Nonetheless, you probably could have done something. That something may have taken a great deal of foresight, and is possibly only apparent in hindsight, but outcomes could have been different. And they were expected to have been different, regardless of whether or not you should have done something different.

Perhaps not a fair criticism to find oneself under, but this is not about fairness. This is about failure. In my brief experience, there are very few events beyond our control, or at least beyond the scope of the standards and procedures that we are supposed to follow. Things that are actually beyond our control:
* Weather, especially the type that is fast moving and rapidly changing. We can work around it or stop the job entirely, but that's about the extent of control we have.
* Sudden, catastrophic equipment failure, assuming equipment has passed all the required checks within the required time frame.

Catastrophic equipment failure is a nightmare. A client once told me I should smile more on location. No, not from what I have seen, and seen fail, knowing how quickly a seemingly smooth job can turn into an ugly, unmitigated disaster. Maybe you could have done something different. Maybe not. Maybe it'll haunt you on every other job, adding yet another item to the list of things you try to check before and during a job. Always in motion, always pacing, always looking, looking for that weak link that stands between you and an aggravatingly long incident review and multiple post-job conference calls.

But sometimes, people fail you. People you count on, who represent, not you, but in theory the same thing you represent. But it cuts both ways, because you might fail someone else.

6 comments:

buickguy said...

Although true that failure can almost always be avoided, the insights needed to accomplish that avoidance are almost always obtained by experience. That's experience you did not have in VIX; you were getting it -- big time.

success said...

One cannot allow past failures to impede future progress.

Anonymous said...

Do not beat yourself up. Learn to forgive yourself. Deal with it. Get over it and Move on. If you want to look back, look at it on a positive side

dboss said...

This job is so stressful. It may kill you! Time to rethink of an alternative before you are fired.

Scott said...

Welcome to my senior year of high school.

While what you're talking about probably carries far more weight in the real world, maybe even SOME weight in the real world, what you just said sounds a LOT like what I was thinking right after marching band season.

But basically, life is full of those types of things. You fuck something up so you learn how NOT to fuck something else up later. Don't beat yourself up for it, just take the lesson you're supposed to take from it and better yourself for the future.

Anonymous said...

He who makes no mistakes makes nothing.