Sunday, February 5, 2012

recovering from a remodeling window mistake

I got this text a couple of nights ago from Albert while I was out walking with my energetic walking friend. “I need you to check out the window, two were swapped I think. MBR with left open?” Disturbing. I examined the windows when I got home. The proportions were weird, but were they wrong? The architect and I had extensive bathroom window discussions (e.g. vinyl vs. aluminum and manufacturer, Milgard). I didn’t really remember a lot of bedroom window discussions aside from the manufacturer (Pella). I valiantly attempted to read our fourteen pages of plans. After about 45 minutes, I deduced, the bedroom windows in our mid-century modern remodel were most likely, in fact, switched.

MBR Window

Alex BR Window
Because of my recent four years in the I.T. world, I have learned it never behooves me to simply accuse a craftsman (or a programmer) of making a mistake. Plus, there is a 95% chance that I will be wrong. I sent a carefully worded email to the contractor, stating there was a possibility, that, perhaps maybe, the bedroom windows were swapped. Within a minute of hitting <Send>, the contractor called me. He said he was sorry and that he thought I was probably right and he would be over first thing in the morning. I sent him some pictures to help him verify. By the end of the next day, the windows were switched back. 

Correct smaller window MBR

Correct window Alex BR
Later that week, the contractor apologized again and thanked me for the pictures which enabled him to get the framer back the next day. The contractor said he had noticed something wrong last week, and before he had a chance to capture the thought, he got approached with a question from one of the subs. Welcome to my world.

This situation was a real reminder for me about the best way of dealing with mistakes. According to CIO magazine, there are 4 steps in recovering from a mistake:

Step 1: Acknowledge the mistake – accept responsibility and don’t blame others or make excuses. Contractor accepted responsibility and apologized immediately, even without knowing whether there was really a mistake!
Step 2: Communicate – without emotion. Neither of us expressed any emotion, we were both very polite.
Step 3: Try to fix the problem – three approaches are undo, redo, make do. Our contractor did a redo.
Step 4: Learn the lessons – post mortem, how can we keep it from happening again. We could have checked those window frames ourselves a week ago and should have.

The house progress is going really well and a lot continues to happen every week. I did a Saturday night marathon of design shows and saw frequent complaints of “we got demo’d then no action for months.” We see major progress every week and are pleased with the cadence of this project. 

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