Bluefield Round Table – Learning from our Big Mistakes

Jul 29, 2019 9:04:21 AM

Once a week, the Bluefield team gets together to discuss the lessons we’ve learned over the previous week. Frequently, these lessons come from mistakes that we’ve made, so we share them with the team to give the benefit of our experience so that others don’t repeat them. This time, we’ve decided to share some of these lessons publicly. We asked some of our team members the following question:

What's the biggest mistake you made in your career (that you're willing to share), and what did you learn from it?  

Brett Peebles 

One mistake I made is that I have left two roles, with two different organisations and returned, twice. Both instances I left for reasons of career progression. Returning to a previous employer didn't work for me on both occasions and have committed to never go back to a place I have worked in the past. 

Another mistake – if you’re planning to go to work for an organisation, make sure they and their people have values similar to yours and they live by those values. I have worked for a company who had all the documented systems and watched people get away with theft, receiving gifts and treated their people with contempt. All with the knowledge of the GM. This behaviour ends up being the norm and no matter what you do to try and change that, it won’t happen. 

Gerard Wood 

Well Brett you are never allowed to leave us! We have several people who have returned after a stint on the dark side and thank God they did. 

From a career development perspective, I think the biggest mistake I made was to focus on my career development. I was very ambitious, and I wanted to do an excellent job and rise up the ranks. I was good at my job but by focusing on advancement at times I lost site of the main objective, which is getting great outcomes through great teamwork. 

I was successful in receiving promotions at times through hard work, but after receiving the promotion I realised that I was too inexperienced for the next step up (i.e. tradie to supervisor) I had to learn through mistakes as a supervisor.  

In roles later in my career I realised that if I stopped judging my bosses until I have walked a mile in their shoes and focused on getting job satisfaction and challenging things to make a real difference, career advancement became easier and I was actually ready for the next role. In summary my mistake was to be too eager and too impatient to get up the ladder. 

Leon Best 

I had a very good electrical contracting company which had won numerous awards over a 13-year span. We had built a strong team of leaders and go getters; we changed our business model and with that came changes in risk. 

My mistake was, I did not complete my due diligence sufficiently on the head contractor which ultimately cost me my business and changed the lives of my employees.  

We had entered into a joint venture, completed the project on time and under budget. The head contractor (who was the joint venture partner) would not pay the final invoice $500,000. 5 years on and we have settled out of court, my team had moved on to other rewarding jobs and I now work for the man. The stress has gone, and my wife loves me again. 

Would I do it again? NO! But I’m glad I gave it a shot and learnt a hell of a lot during those dark days. 

Matthew Grant 

Early on in my career I made the mistake, like many people do, of confusing quality with size and complexity. There’s a common view that if your process flow diagrams, procedures, investigation reports etc are highly detailed, then they’re somehow better. It’s particularly common in engineering and safety disciplines. I look back now on some of my work and realise I could have achieved the same results with a simpler and shorter document. All you end up doing is making it harder for people to understand your work, and that reduces its value. 

It’s still a constant struggle, but I do my best to ruthlessly simplify and edit my own (and others’) work to remove unnecessary clutter and complexity. The biggest problem, of course, is that it usually takes longer to make something simple than it does to make it complex! So, it’s a tension that never goes away, but the team at Bluefield provides a great environment to keep focusing on simplifying everything.  

Brett and Gerard have both contributed to our earlier round table on Becoming a Good Maintenance Manager.  You can also read our series of articles on Simplifying Root Cause Analysis.