Where to cut

A patient’s family should not tell the doctor where to cut, but they can and should measure him by his results.”

There is an important distinction between being closed to feedback from your customers and refusing to maintain your professional distance.

Daily you might see people of all organizational levels running into other people’s professional space and suggesting, recommending, encouraging changes which are about process, not about results. A practical example would be a customer bothered by failing welds who doesn’t demand the welder achieve good welds, but instead demands that the welder follow a new process the customer has designed for welding.

This leads to professional indifference where the welder, in this case, agrees to the new process under the auspices of “pleasing his customers,” and his welds fail all the more.  Then, when the customer comes around again, perhaps this time looking for accountability from the welder for good welds, the welder feels justified in saying, “My failure couldn’t be helped because I had to follow your new process.”

We must draw a  simple line and encourage ourselves to protect our professional independence in whatever field we are in (e.g,. welding, electronics, change management, corporate training) and encourage our customers to focus on our outcomes (vice our processes).   We must not blindly agree to a suggestion without integrating them into our professional knowledge.  If we blindly comply then we have sacrificed our professionalism and we would do everyone a favor if we wore ribbons or other markers to tell everyone we are not the professionals they might see us to be, but a fallen lot instead.  That way they could all avoid us and our tainted outcomes.

In the same way we must focus on the outcomes we want from others and never impose our process onto the professionals.  Once we’ve won the argument about outcomes, then we can, if invited, go assist the professional in improving the way they do things.  But, in those situations it is important to remember that we are only offering ideas or a fresh perspective to the professional.  It is up to them to integrate what we share into their processes in a way that works with and compliments their methods.

I’ve meddled in other people’s professional space before.  I probably will again.  I’m not perfect in keeping myself on the right side of the line.  Yet, at least I know the line is there and I try to maintain it for what it brings to better outcomes and better professionalism in the system.

Now that you know the line is there, will you help me sustain it?

Our system will work better if we respect the line.

Why not try?


There is a right order in a system when I leave a man to a task with his talents and then set a demand that he perform with what he has been given.

There is a right order in a system when a professional agrees to explain why they are taking the actions they are taking, but doesn’t meekly abide by the process recommendations of people who haven’t thought at all about the problems or aren’t interested in the professional knowledge that led to that decision.

We’d all do better in our organizations if we stuck to measuring each other by our results and not telling the doctors where to cut.


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