Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 44 seconds
Some of the worlds best inventions come from mistakes
I was reading the obituary recently for Stephanie Kwolek the inventor of Kevlar. She was the one who accidentally stumbled upon a solution looking for a problem. What was initially deemed a mistake in the chemistry lab while researching making tires stronger, was later improved upon and became a lifesaving tool in the form of bulletproof vests and many other things. That is when it dawned on me that I invented something too. My invention prevents problems by recognizing our mistakes and creating solutions that are far reaching.
Born out of a problem that occurred on a job site several years ago my invention of the Action Item list has become an integral tool for ensuring great communication and results at every Levco job site.
The stupid mistake
It was a weekend afternoon and our clients were visiting their newly remodeled home from out of state. Since our meeting was on a Saturday, I decided to make the meeting and let the project manager have an undisturbed weekend at home.
They were looking at the framing with me when we realized that a wall was 4″ away from where it was supposed to be. “Wow” I said, “glad we caught that one”, as I took out a construction pencil and wrote right on the stud, “Move this wall 4″ > that way”. I figured that I had communicated the issue perfectly and put it out of my mind.
The project went along and we were doing the final walk through several weeks later, when it became painfully obvious that I had not communicated successfully that the wall still needed to be moved.
Frustrated and depressed my client’s graciously let me off the hook but I was determined not to let this painful situation reoccur. Out of the agony of letting my client down, I created a way to prevent this from happening ever again.
The Action Item List was born
Once I got buy in from my remodeling team, a clipboard with a basic form was placed at each job site. I tell every client at contract signing that it is the first thing we look for when we arrive at the project. The clipboard is a simple tool that anyone can use and everyone can see. It is for 2AM in the morning ideas, and anything else that needs to be conveyed. It is absolutely the first thing I look for when I show up on a job site and the place where I leave a note before I leave. I can say that it has been a comfort for my clients and a routine for my employees to view. Orientation to the tool is simple and once it gets used, it becomes second nature.
Improving upon a proven tool
On a recent visit to a job site the client and I were looking the project over when he started telling me things that the Project Manager should know about. I instinctively looked for the Action Item List to write stuff down. It was misplaced somewhere. Others had seen it but it was nowhere to be found. That is when I realized that the missing tool was a detriment to the project. How could I do great work without an essential tool? All at once it hit me, there needs to be a highly visible location for the clipboard with an attached writing implement. Like a pegboard with outlined tools (which I do not have) everyone can see at a glance where it is, (or is not in this case.)
The bottom line is that we just improved upon a unique Levco invention. Once I added a tether made from a brightly colored nylon dog leash and a shoestring, which holds a pen, I made the Action Item List clipboard incrementally better. All thanks to a stupid mistake.
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