Something just didn’t look right…

Warning — Geek Story Ahead! My brother Jim is a retired civil engineer. When we get together, we often share war stories. This one has a good lesson for consultants.

It was Friday afternoon, and it was time to head into town for a cold beer and hot meal,” Jim began. He was working on a new power plant out on the North Dakota plains. It was hot and dusty, and that cold beer sounded great.

“Time for one final pass around the construction site. Hmmm — that hole they dug today for new building footings just didn’t look right.” The cold beer called, but Jim decided he better check this out. Good thing he did, too.

During his college years, Jim had worked summers with the county surveyor’s office.  As such, he was pretty handy with a transit. So he decided to confirm a few measurements.

Sure enough, the hole was in the wrong place — by about 50 feet! And the schedule called for pouring concrete that weekend. So, rather than enjoying that frosty brew, Jim shut down the project.

As he explained, “Catching this mistake more than paid my salary for my entire career with my company. Had they filled those footings with concrete, the cost to fix that mistake would have been many millions of dollars.”

The following week, the hole was “moved” to its proper location, and the project proceeded on schedule.

The lesson for consultants is this – if something doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t. As a consultant, you are paid for your professional judgment. So follow your hunches, which are often the result of years of professional experience.

The cold beer can wait!

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