Monday, February 14, 2011

Made to Measure

Mass produced or custom built? I think given the choice most people would opt for a custom made product built by an expert they trust. The obvious reasons are: better workmanship to develop a product that's tailored just for you. But I think it's more than that, I think it also comes down to the freedom the individual is given to exercise their skill. Start reducing their level of freedom and they may lose control over the process - quality drops. (maybe that's why they call it quality "control" ;-)

Take the example of a touch-less car wash vs "hand washed" alternatives. Hand washed usually results in a much better result, because the person doing the cleaning can check the work and focus more of their energy on problem areas. They are also smart enough to switch to other techniques, cleaning products, etc based on the specific situation. The auto-wash has no control, it's programmed to follow the same steps for every single car, it does what it was told, and that's that. You're expected to take it or leave it and you're probably ok with that because it's cheap and it's just a car.

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This line of thinking can lead to an interesting question about careers. As competition becomes increasingly fierce, the room for compromises in quality is small and getting smaller. But how do you avoid unacceptable compromise when you're not calling the shots?

I've outlined a few suggestions below, but the common thread that runs through all of them is that they focus on what you can control:

Expand your role
Simply try calling some of the shots (ask for more responsibility) and see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised that your input is welcome. This works (I've tried it!)

Search for new opportunities
Invest the effort necessary to work for companies that share your values and commitment. Employers that are looking for proactive people to exercise their unique expertise (and control) to deliver outstanding results.

Start your own enterprise
Finally, there's the option to start your own business and search for customers who love your unique and uncompromising style!

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