I was just listening to the radio as they were discussing with bemusement a costly £40.6m blunder by French train operator SNCF. They have discovered that 2000 shiny new trains are actually too wide for many station platforms and subsequently work is now underway to chip away at the platforms so the trains will fit. Ouch.
Costly mistakes are fortunately quite rare, but an article by the BBC today discusses this SNCF tale of woe as well as some other embarrassing stories where a little error proved very expensive, or even fatal…you can read the article here.
I think my favourite is the story about how a bridge was built between Germany and Switzerland, but both nationalities used different benchmarks with relation to mean sea levels. Germany, for its part, measures height in relation to the North Sea, while Switzerland opts for the Mediterranean Sea. As two halves of a new bridge grew closer to one another, it became clear that, instead of being at the same height “above sea level”, one side was 54cm higher than the other!
One of the high performance leadership behaviours that we rate and coach is ‘information search’. The essence is that your information should be “rich and broad”. It is vital to gather a rich variety of information from many different sources about events, issues and situations occurring internally and externally to your environment. The importance of this behaviour should be ingrained throughout your organisation so that you always have a broad set of data in a continuously changing environment.
With this rich data at your fingertips, red faces can, hopefully, be saved!