Sunday, November 08, 2015
We've been preparing meals in my office with a hotplate, toaster oven and crockpot, and doing dishes in the bathroom sink. So none of this has been easy.
This last week was a hard one, as we narrowed down choices of backsplash, and contended with a kitchen counter top that had the sink hole cut in the wrong place, and had to be redone.
This has been frustrating to me. As a craftsman, I attempt to uphold certain standards in my own work, and as a consumer of craftsmanship performed by others, I have been alerted to the amount of difficulty and cost that would be avoided if people paid greater attention to what they did, and if they were to have greater interest in craftsmanship as a way of life in pursuit of intrinsic values. I am not writing to place blame on those craftsmen with whom we have dealt. Our local electrician and local carpenter and local painters and plumber in our own small community have been great. But assumption in the world at the moment is that if the customer doesn't notice, then all things are great.
As a more egregious example, the installers came to put our new counter top in place. Without measuring, the installer took the stainless steel sink, traced around it and began cutting the sink base for it to fit. Out of curiosity I walked outside with my tape measure and checked the distance from the sink hole cut in the counter top to the end where it would fit the wall, and determined that the sink would not fit without a near complete destruction of the sink base. I stopped the installer, and asked, "don't you think you should measure before you cut?" And so after measuring, and checking and rechecking and calls to the fabrication plant, and the boss, we determined that the whole thing had to be done again. I was left with the notion that had I not interfered, the whole sink base would have been destroyed before the mistake was noticed and had I not been home, the counter top, would have been installed whether it was rightly done or not. There is a hurry and an impatience about how things are done, and there is a great need in the world at large for education in the application of mind that would lead to an overall honing of craftsmanship and its application. The cost of incompetence is enormous.
Earlier, when the cabinet installers were finishing their work, they asked us to go through and write a list of things that needed to be fixed. A person trained in craftsmanship, and experienced in the intrinsic rewards of craftsmanship and the application of hand and mind would not need a list, and the standards for completion would not be so limited by a customer's often low standards.
But why should industry pay for what the customer is unlikely to notice and call out? And why should industry pay for a higher level of craftsmanship when most customers are ill equipped to serve immediately as quality inspectors and may feel awkward about doing so? There are intrinsic values in doing a job well, and when workers are not granted those rewards and are not trained to receive those rewards, costly mistakes happen, and employee turnover can be disastrous. Imagine a situation in which craftsmanship is continuously discovered by a client, instead of reminders of inattention and lack.
This overall problem is not confined to kitchen cabinet installation. A good friend is facing cancer treatment starting on Monday. And the depth of engagement and delivery of service by specialists of all kinds, including in the medical profession, is affected by the power to observe critically, to think outside the box, and to uphold the kinds of intrinsic standards that a person learns effectively through the exercise of craftsmanship. I hope and pray that my friend's life is in good hands.
Several years ago I was approached by the county in which I live, concerning a building they owned and grant funding that might be available to start a vocational training program. From their end, they were trying to get money from the state and federal government. From my end, I had to ask, "trained to do what?"
If the idea is simply to teach a few kids to hammer nails, and go from that into employment as carpenters, that might be a good thing. But best would be an intensive program that would give students the tools to reach for quality in their own workmanship, and to apply hand and mind in ways unfamiliar to them, and to seek the rewards of craftsmanship, that can actually be applied to all fields of endeavor.
So what would a quality school be like? First, it would have inspirational teachers, willing to uphold high standards of workmanship. Secondly, it would introduce students to the intrinsic rewards of meeting high standards. Third, it would sell the concept, that attainment of quality is its own reward.
The idea is that craftsmanship and the application of craftsmanship is transforming in that it enhances one's ability to observe and make decisions based on both intrinsic and extrinsic values. And that the values learned through craftsmanship are universal in that those very same values apply to all human endeavors.
Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.