You know the line. “You had one job…” captioned below a picture of a street line painter doing figure eights or a window washer squeegeeing white paint instead of soapy water across a high-rise glass wall. They may be enough to get a chuckle or a grimace or a snort of disbelief out of most readers, but when we see that caption, "You had one job…," we are sure to look at the picture.
We have recently mentioned some ongoing projects we have at present in both our households. One on Michael’s side of the world, a move to a new apartment, is wrapping up. The biggest component of it, the actual moving of household goods and furniture, happened last week. A well-known moving company was hired to do one job, transport said household goods and furniture from one address to another. They arrived late for the loading because of a misspelling of the street name as given them by their office. They arrived with a too small truck necessitating two trips to transport the packed goods and furniture. And they were unable to move a large sofa out of the old residence, claiming it was too large to go through the doorway until it was pointed out to them that it wasn’t grown from a small loveseat into the sofa it now appears to be, but was brought into the room as is. What went in as is must be able to go out as is. That made three “You had one job…” opportunities and they hadn’t yet left the old address, and more were coming. Still the move was a success. How?
Rarely in life are there “one job” jobs. Every job is a series of tasks, a combination of efforts, working sequentially or in unison, to an ultimate conclusion or goal. It is just as rare in life that all the components of all the jobs undertaken are successfully executed without some improvisation added to achieve its success.
Often the improvisations not only make the job complete, but also make improvements, whether in trying to fit a sofa through a door or looking for an easier way to vacuum under the sofa. There is little impetus to improve something – a product, a task, a procedure – if that something is already working as well as it can. Fortunately, for the “You had one job…” contingent, there is always room for improvement. Those who see the One Job as a punchline will end up doing the same thing the next time they are confronted with a bump in their road and another frustrating experience. Those who see the One Job as an opportunity to improve will not only find the next time confronted with the same situation more successful with less anxiety, they will also find future One Jobs easier to deal with, faster to improvise against, and generally less a distraction to successfully completing the entire job and moving on.
How did the missteps of the furniture loading affect the furniture delivery? Were improvements made, even in that short a time? Indeed. Rather than wrestling the large piece of furniture through the small front door, the movers opted to carry the furniture to the larger back door. It meant more moving and lifting but less struggling. And was one job well done.
The next time you’re faced with doing “one job,” think of all the steps that got you there and what you can learn from that experience. “You had just one job…” can be a punch line or an opportunity to learn, to teach, or to improve. What job will you do?