Lessons Learned #17: Don’t Rush When You’re In A Hurry

I remember always being in a hurry when I was a young boy, impatient to get wherever I wanted to go. On those occasions my mother used to say to me slowly, in a deliberate and gentle voice, “dress me slowly, because I am in a hurry.” It sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but it worked!

The origin of the expression is attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte, the famous French emperor and military leader. It is reported that when he was preparing to lead his troops into battle, he used that phrase with his “dresser”, the personal aide that helped him into his uniform. The point Napoleon was stressing was this; when preparing for an important and urgent task, you must slow down enough to be methodical, careful, and deliberate. You need to operate at a speed that will allow you to focus on the details as you prepare.

Over the years, I can’t tell you how often I’ve repeated that phrase to myself; as I get dressed for an important function, as I gather my files for an urgent meeting, when I approach a work deadline, or even as I get ready to leave for vacation with my wife.

Mistakes are part of life, no one is perfect.  In my engineering classes long ago, I learned about error rates in human and automated processes. There is one thing you can be sure of, the more you rush your work, the more you are apt to make mistakes. Consider that to be a universal constant.

In business, as in your personal life, mistakes can be very expensive. Estimating the cost of a project is a complicated undertaking involving many factors. There are interpretations, assumptions, decisions, and deductions which must be made concerning a limited amount of information, facts, and conditions that are known. There never seems to be enough time for you to prepare the estimate. However, rushing an estimate can produce the kind of mistakes that could be very costly to your business.

Detailed, analytical or accounting work is another area where rushing the work produces expensive errors.

On a managerial level, critical or important decisions should be thought out carefully, after considering all the facts and weighing the options available. Rash decisions, made in haste without the necessary information, usually end up being regrets or disappointments.

Perhaps the most common and costliest of all mistakes occur during the physical construction of a project. Failure to note required details or to adhere to the mandated standard can result in non-conforming work that must be removed and re-installed.  The additional cost and time to correct work in the field can be multiples of what it should have taken to install it correctly in the first place.

The lesson to be learned here is this, when you are faced with an important or urgent task, tell yourself “dress me slowly, because I’m in a hurry”.

——— A Personal Note ———-

On July 9, my dear mother’s life expired after 95 years. She was a wonderful mother of 7, and a loving wife to my father with whom she shared her life until 1996, when he passed away. Although I am saddened by the loss of both parents while still being “relatively young” by today’s standards, I am fortunate to have many wonderful memories to enjoy. Most importantly, my parents’ love endures with me and will continue to sustain me.

The collective experiences and life examples from my past that were provided by my parents, have helped mold my character and greatly influence who I am today.  They continue to serve as “Lessons Learned” from which I will benefit for the rest of my life.

If you have also lost one or both of your parents, I urge you to take some time to re-visit the memories and take stock of everything which they taught you directly and by example. That is one of the ways I have found to continue to honor my parents now that they are gone.

Rita M. Farach 1919 – 2014LL 17_Mom's picture

My mom in 1936, the year she met my dad.



“Dress me slowly, because I’m in a hurry.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

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Lessons Learned #16: Once You Lose A Point, You Never Get It Back

I can still recall seeing the young man wearing a t-shirt with that slogan. The shirt had an image of a basketball player taking a shot, with the ball still in the air. Though it referred to the game of basketball, the broader message of course, was that in life, you don’t want to miss any “points”. You need to make everything count, there are no “do-overs”.

I think about this message each year during the NBA finals. Despite our disappointment in the fact that the Heat did not win this year, one has to agree (if one is to be objective) that the team that missed the least number of “points” won.

As I thought about this further, I found myself making the connection to the construction industry. I thought about how a “point” could represent “TIME.” So it was that I came around to the idea that “once you lose a day, you never get it back.”

Sure, you can try to make up for the lost day; but those efforts will not come without cost and the use of resources that were probably dedicated to other projects.

Over the years I have watched many projects begin to lose their flow, as problems develop, forcing the schedule to drag out. It seems that the work force and those in charge adjust to accept the ever slowing pace that results. In the industry, we call it “loss of momentum.” Due to the nature of my work, I have walked through many of these jobs to observe and record the problems and the corresponding impacts on the progress. In most cases the sensation is palpable; you can literally feel the drag of the project that has lost its mojo!

It is natural to assume that in the face of those circumstances, management must take charge to lead, motivate and set the examples that will help turn things around. However, that can be an insurmountable challenge, whenever the conditions have persisted for a long time. There is a real, psychological component to the slowdown of work on a project.  As long as human beings and not robots are doing the majority of the work in the field, that will be the case.

In my experience, by the time that most projects get to the stage where the “wheels have come off” it is too late to make any meaningful change. The inertia that has LL 16 - picturebuilt up by then is too great to overcome. Even by employing a Herculean effort, at a tremendous cost, those projects typically result in financial losses.

The lesson to be learned here is clear, you need to adopt the attitude at the beginning of the job that “once you lose a day, you never get it back.”

Chris Bosh, Game 6 – June 12, 2014

A Message To My Readers

I have shared my views on a variety of subjects in these pages for more than a year now. The positive feedback that I’ve received from many of you has been encouraging and continues to motivate me. It’s especially pleasing when you share your thoughts with me. In fact, one of the best compliments I received was from a contractor who said “of course I read every single issue, why wouldn’t I, they are short, to the point and you’re giving me free advice.”

Those were my main goals when I first started Lessons Learned.

I urge you to take advantage of this platform I’ve established by reaching out with your concerns on topics that you would like me to discuss. I will entertain any suggestions that are relevant to construction management, project documentation and other administrative challenges. Please send an email with your comments.

©  Farach Consultants, Inc.  •  all rights reserved  •  954.434.7710