New Year's resolution: avoid making negative, reactive, pessimistic, counterproductive, hopeless statements about the world

Dec. 15, 2003

Some people like to make New Year's resolutions. I don't, but I do think it's important to look back over the past year and think about what I should have done differently. Several readers strongly suggested that my editorial, "Farm Like You Know How," (Plant Services, September, 2003, page 7), should be high on that list.

In that editorial, I said, "In virtually every case, problems both large and small are due to one of two causes: an unlikely coincidence of events that nobody could have anticipated, or somebody just didn't do their job."

Reader Bill Salot says, "I, and probably others, interpreted that statement as a negative, reactive, pessimistic, counterproductive, hopeless view of the world."

"You couldn't be more wrong," wrote Salot. "In effect, you were preaching that individual problems either cannot be prevented or are the fault of some blameworthy individual.

"Your extreme perspective would be good for a laugh were it not for its insidious message I am copying this e-mail to two groups of leaders in the practice of root cause analysis. They need to know what they are up against."

Mike Salzar, one of those leaders, wrote, "I couldn't agree with Bill more Organizations set the stage for performance. The human exists in this system. Arguably one of the roots of accidents and events will almost always be a human. With that being said, we cannot create a perfect human, but we can optimize the systems in which the human must exist. By doing so we create an inherently safer work environment that is far more error-tolerant."

In an effort to make a point, I may have overstated my assertion in the September editorial. All I meant to say is, before you change a system in a way that adds a significant cost, make sure it's worth it. Be sure your solution addresses an actual problem, not just an aberration due to unusual circumstances.

Some readers were less disturbed. "I just read your Editor's Desk column," wrote Mark Rottger. "In light of a meeting which will take place here shortly, I'd like to staple your comments firmly to someone's forehead. Great article!"

Other feedback from readers and experts in the field has helped us plan some improvements to Plant Services. You'll be seeing a number of changes intended to make the magazine, Web site and ancillary products more useful and informative, as well as timely, lively and concise.

Your preferences will be part of the plan. Please tell me what you want or need to find in these pages. Don't hesitate to let me know, now or at any time in the future, if you think we are going in the wrong direction. And any positive feedback always makes our day. Either way, I promise, your comments will be taken seriously.