Friday, August 21, 2015

Recording our Failures

In the mid-1990s one of the US automotive "Big Three" was in the process of introducing its first "all new" compact car in twelve years.  The stakes were high and the very top management decided to pull out all of the stops and hire one of the world's most celebrated "Ride and Handling" experts.  We will call him Roger, the Pro from Dover.

The local guys were very excited.  Roger's billing rate was $1500 a day + expenses.  The man was legend.  He tuned quarter million dollar European super cars.

He entered the vehicle and sat down behind the steering wheel.  "Let me see the log book.  I want to see what we are riding."

He was handed a spiral notebook.

He stared at it as if they were kidding him.

"This will never do!  You need a bound book with numbered pages."

"Why?" they asked him.

"Because us guys are all the same.  We want to forget our failures.  The temptation to tear out the pages where our best guesses did not work out is too tempting.  We end up on an endless loop where we keep trying the things that did not work out. For most of us, we end up retrying a failed combination about every four weeks."

"We need a bound book with numbered pages so we dare not tear out the pages.  Only then will we stop remaking the same mistakes and start progressing in a meaningful, permanent way."

Those words stuck with me.


Greenwood approach grafts.  Leaves browned and fell off.  Twigs look OK but will probably  not make it through the winter.  In retrospect, the end of July was too late in the season.  The scions did not break dormancy.
Homes for solitary bees.  The piths on some of the bottom twigs might have solitary bee eggs in them.  They are much smoother than the raggedy piths of the twigs on top.   This is a watch-and-see.
The usual assortment of grafts.  I think this was a case of bad (dead) scionwood.
Japanese beetles tearing up trees in "tree tubes".  This is a filbert.
And even when totting up the failures good things happened.  This is a Red Clover plant that is throwing all "four-leaf clover".  I will take that as God telling me to not take failures too seriously.  We cannot have successes if we are paralyzed by the fear of failure.


The company flew Roger over from Britain every two or three weeks.  Each visit, Roger would ask to see the bound log book with numbered pages.  Every visit, the local pros would shuck-and-jive.  They did not think it was necessary.

Roger took notes.  Six months into the program Roger was called onto the carpet for lack of progress.  He pulled out his notes and discussed rubber durometer, stab bar diameters, strut valving and tire sizes.

The squirrels were running on a wheel going no where.  It cycled every four weeks.  Not only were they running in circles but there were some basic structural issues that had compromised the "property" to the point of unusable.

One of the "boy-racers" had run a test where he replaced all of the rubber bushings with machined, aluminum bushings.  The machine shop, familiar with the boy-racer's casual regard for measuring and recording had machined all of the bushings 1/8th inch (3mm) shorter than he specified.  When boy-racer had them installed, one ear on the the clevis that held the left side of the steering gear bent forward when the bolt was tightened, the clevis on the right side had an ear that bent rearward.  The steering gear was cocked katy-whumpus in the car.

To Roger's credit, he noticed the "lumpy steering" (asymmetric response) in the first six feet he drove the car...while he was backing out of the parking place.

Very shortly after Roger was called on the carpet the local pros bought a proper log book.

There is a reason you pay $1500/day to hire the "Pro from Dover."

1 comment:

  1. Yep, you get what you pay for, and keeping ALL the records IS important... sigh