Who Cares?

Whether it is perfect or not?

That is, to start with, the wrong question.

The right question is how to ensure that ‘it’ IS perfect.

The experience was some 40 years ago when I was in the Commerce Department in DC.

Among my many responsibilities was dealing with the Japanese business world as well as Japanese government trade officials. We had a large trade deficit with Japan at the time and were working with them to buy more FROM America rather than simply sell more to us –particularly our own inventions.

We had a large VERY senior and prestigious group of Japanese business leaders coming to the US and Washington DC and it was decided to have a significant gala reception at a Smithsonian museum to impress and honor them.

The invitation was to come from THE Secretary of Commerce AND me as the Assistant Secretary.

The day of the reception was still a few weeks away. At a morning staff meeting one day I remembered to ask when the invitations were to go out.

The answer was ‘this week’. I then asked to see it. Why? “Among other good reasons my name is on it and it is going to tout DC.”

An hour or so later it was produced. I asked: “This is finished?” Yes. “Oh? NO it is NOT!!!”

My staff scoured it for minutes. Every word was there spelled properly. What was the problem?

I then pointed out that the whole text was a good quarter of an inch off center.

“Why does that matter??”

“Because that is sloppy and wrong, and MY name is on it and thus associated with crap! Which I will not tolerate.”

I ordered –Bring it back ASAP! They did –with the printer who was still being sobered up. It was now only off about 1/16th of an inch and less obvious. I let it go but was fired up about the problem for quite a while and kept the quarter inch off version at hand.

For the next few weeks I showed it to about 20 people seeking ideas about how to deal problems like this?

Only one person saw the problem— immediately – the others never even could see the flaw.

So, I was left with the conundrum of how to rely on and manage people who could not see or recognize even an obvious and self-evident problem.

I am still struggling with that type of problem which surrounds all of us all every day.

May be those of us who suffer from seeing those problems –that most others do not see –are the real problem.

“Who cares?”



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