“DUH” Ripple Effect

Brad Curry
Contributing Writer
Benjamin Franklin Plumbing


How many people have done something stupid (or let’s say less than brilliant) in the last 2 weeks? Odds are, everyone. Not major earth-shattering stuff; I’m talking about things like forgetting your wallet or leaving your briefcase at home. Locking your keys in the car. Maybe you forgot to grab parts for a job that had been ordered, pulled and were in the shop waiting for you, yet on the day of the job you walked right out and left them. Maybe you printed a special picture for your child’s school play, but ran out and left it on the printer.  These are what many refer to as a “DUH”.

In most cases, your reaction is “oops” (or something a little more colorful) followed by a phone call for someone to bring it to you. The person on the other end of that call may chastise you a bit, but they bring what you need and you go about your business, tasks are completed without a 2ndthought. And many times, that’s just fine. Accountability for the forgetfulness is not discussed.

Now imagine these types of incidences happening every day for 3 weeks in a row. One day it’s a desperately needed broken tool that wasn’t repaired, because a supervisor wasn’t notified. Next day, someone forgets to re-stock their supply of shabrats, knowing they used their last shabrat on Tuesday (that’s a made-up word by the way- insert whatever applies to you). Day 3, a vehicle maintenance issue that was neglected for weeks results in a one of your fleet trucks needing a tow. Day 4, an iPad required for daily entry gets left on the loading dock. And on and on and on…… Now we’re creating a DUH effect ripple and the need to discuss accountability grows.

Imagine that DUH effect times 15; visualize the ripples a small stone creates when tossed into a still pond. When a solitary DUH moment occurs, what is required to remedy that situation? Some member of your staff must stop what they are doing and deliver, help or facilitate a solution. As a stand-alone event, not necessarily a big deal.

Now here comes the DUH15 ripple:

1) While that avoidable neglected truck issue is being handled, one of your fleets vehicles hits an object in the road causing a flat. This unavoidable flat tire issue must now wait for assistance, because the company’s “fire fighter” is occupied with what should have been an avoidable DUH event.

2) On day 2, Diligent Don discovers his client now wants to add another $1000 on a job which will require non-stock material to be delivered; unfortunately, Diligent Don must wait. Why? Because Ambling Adam forgot his shabat restock on the back dock, and called in for delivery just minutes before Diligent Dan did. Sorry Dan, but our delivery personnel is already headed 30 miles in the opposite direction. Adams reaction when Dan calls him mad during his wait? “Dude, I forgot. Sorry bro” giggling all the while.

3) Conscientious Carl arrives at the home of a long time, repeat client to repair her ramoshl (another made up, insert your own word). The client called in and said she was ready to have it fixed. As Conscientious Carl surveys the equipment, the client wonders aloud where her upgraded ramoshl is; ooops, apparently Forgetful Freddy forgot to note that in the client’s history last week when he was servicing her other ramoshl. Now Carl has wasted his time, the client took the afternoon off, and our company looks more like the Mickey Mouse club than a professional ———-company. Can you guess what Freddy will say? Does “Oh, my bad. Sorry” sound familiar?

The chances of these DUH events happening 15 days in a row is unlikely with a smaller company; if that’s the case, it’s time for some hard look evaluations, but I digress. However, with medium to larger companies, this is where the DUH15 effect kicks in. If your company is running 10 trucks, 1 DUH event from just 1 tech per day keeps this waste going for 2 weeks. 15 trucks? Just 1 DUH a day can equal 3 weeks of fighting fires, instead of business growth. That’s the DUH15 effect! To make matters worse, because the DUH events only occur every 3 weeks per individual, by the time Sloppy Sammy makes HIS next DUH he sees it as no big deal. Your team members must be held accountable for each ‘DUH’ moment in order to make an impact and make changes. Thus, no single tech, driver, mechanic, etc. feels like they’ve really done anything wrong because they don’t see the ripple, just the splash.

Can we stop the DUH15 ripple? I’m not sure it can be stopped completely; maybe the best we can hope for is to reduce it to a DUH4 or DUH7. How? Here’s a few suggestions:

1) Constant, daily reminders of routine tasks ARE necessary. People forget. Plan for it!

2) Accountability is required. Make the driver that forgot his “shabat” drive back and pick it up. If paid by the task, that will get his attention quick. Make Forgetful Freddy call that client and apologize; now mistakes have consequences.

3) Don’t discount motivation. Motivated “all in” employees should be less likely to have these issues. Should be. By the way, motivation is FREE. Tell your team thanks; pat them on the back; let them know they’re appreciated.

4) Have a contest, somehow rewarding teams for ripple stopping. Allow your team to hold other team members accountable for others ripples (within reason). The prizes don’t have to be huge; it’s more about the recognition.

Remember the ripples in the pond we visualized earlier? Now close your eyes and visualize those ripples are dollars, going away from your business. Away from your bottom line. Away from your wallet.

Stop the DUH ripple by taking away the stone!

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