On Speaking Up (When It’s Much Easier Not To)

On Speaking Up

I rarely send food back. In fact, when I’m dining with someone prepared to send it back even before it arrives, I cringe. They’re happy being unhappy.

We all know this person, maybe you are this person. The waiter approaches from a distance with a table full of entrees, circles in and lands the dishes squarely on the table, adjusting each clockwise so the foodscapes are dialed appropriately. Everyone at the table is satisfied as dinner is served.

Then the one: Hands go up. Eyes roll. Stink made, “This isn’t what I wanted.”

It disrupts the timing of the diners, the flow and the atmosphere, which turned from lively and social to awkward and transactional.

I’m not claiming the wrong dish (or the mis-prepared dish) should be tolerated, but I wonder if there’s a better way.

I regularly manage things that could go wrong – or strive to anticipate them in advance. At any given time, I have piles of purchase orders that make up furnishings and other items that make up an eventual space. When a mirror arrives at the warehouse smashed, that’s easy, send it back. How about when it arrives with a small chip in the frame? And the mirror took 14 weeks receive. And the project unveiling is two weeks out. Good enough with the chip?

Other scenarios are not so simple.

Products are one thing, or a dish prepared in the restaurant kitchen. What about craftsmanship? Or quality of installation and the variable expectations of how product is installed?

Things Only I Notice

It’s my job to notice things. Things that no one else may notice. It’s why I’m so skilled at what I do, that there’s a way to approach a detail and a time and a place to speak up when my name is on it.

Pointing Out Minutiae and Opening a Can of Worms

Imagine the planning that goes into something seemingly simple, like floating shelves. They would need to be made from a particular wood with a particular grain match and particular stain in a particular finish, structurally sound so they were capable of holding a certain weight, maybe wired for lighting. They may have been planned a certain distance from each other and installed onto a wall clad with wallpaper from a particular dye lot that took 14 weeks to receive.

Oh crap, they were installed incorrectly, not centered on the wall as we’d specified.

What are we up against? Take down the shelves, move the brackets that were each drilled into the masonry, destroy the wallpaper in the process. Is it a total wallpaper redo? Can we get more if not? In the same dye lot? 14 more weeks? And the lighting needs to be reworked – will the wires reach and can the electrician get there today?

This begs the question, do I point it out to the client? Will the client even notice a few inches off center? What do you think?

Can’t Sleep Knowing It’s There

Many details aren’t as dramatic, like say, a scratch on the inside of a cabinet door. You’d see it if you looked for it, but will it keep you up at night knowing it’s there? Is it worth replacing the door, which was grain-matched on the exterior, meaning the entire vertical (and possibly horizontal) alignment is in jeopardy?

Accepting Flaws

When is it good enough for what it is and who determines that? And how are these expectations managed ahead of time when a world of things can go wrong? And everyone has a different expectation of “wrong”.

I think it’s the totality of the design intent – like the restaurant experience, Taste, Service and Atmosphere – with a reasonable expectation of superior results.

Send the dish back to the kitchen when it’s wrong, not when you don’t like it.

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